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April 1, 2015 “The Birth of Charlton Heston” aka “The First April Fools Day Ever”

April 1 2015 525b

 

March 18, 2015 “The Shark Shuttle”

Shark Space shuttle

March 11, 2015 “Catching Up with Lucy McGillicutty”

March 11 525

March 4 2015 “Pilgrim Country”

Pilgrim Country 525

February 25th 2015 “Gillette Stadium is Covered in Snow”

Feb 25 2015 525

2-19-2015 “Crisis at HBO”

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MOSCOW (AP) — For the thousands of Russians gathered near Red Square on Saturday, Maidan — the square in Kiev synonymous with pro-European protests last year — is nothing to celebrate.

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“Maidan is a festival of death … Maidan is the smile of the American ambassador who, sitting in his penthouse, is happy to see how brother is killing brother … Maidan is the concentration of everything anti-Russian … Maidan is the embryo of Goebbels,” the organizers of Russia’s new Anti-Maidan movement shouted from the stage.

Demonstrators vowed that last year’s protests in Kiev — centered in the Maidan square which ultimately forced Ukaine’s pro-Russian president to flee on Feb. 21 — would never be repeated in Russia.

“Maidan” is the Ukrainian word for “square” and in common usage refers to Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square).

The protesters in Moscow were an assortment of ultranationalist bikers, pensioners, war veterans, members of student organizations and activists from other pro-Kremlin groups. Many of them waved Russian flags, others bore banners that said “Die, America!” or “U$A, Stop the War!”

Police said that 35,000 people attended, though those numbers were impossible to verify independently.

View gallery
Activists from Russia’s Anti-Maidan movement gather together waving various patriotic flags in centr …
In the year since Ukraine’s transformation, anti-Western sentiment in Russia has spiked, largely over what many perceive as the West’s hand in fomenting the protests in Kiev in order to gain a foothold of control near Russia.

“The United States is the world’s biggest terrorist. … We believe we can rise up again if they leave us alone, but they are always trying to teach us how to live,” said 65-year-old Nina Kishkova, a retired teacher who was at the protest with her friend. Another Maidan “will never win in Russia. I will bring the ammunition myself.”

According to a poll conducted this month by the independent Levada Center, 81 percent of Russians feel negatively about the United States — the highest figure since the early 1990s — and 71 percent feel negatively about the European Union.

The number of Russians who dubbed relations between Russia and the U.S. as that of “enemies” leapt from 4 percent in January 2014 to 42 percent. The poll has a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.

“There has been no empire in history that did the kind of things to its colonies that America does to the world today,” said Alexander Zaldostanov, the leader of the pro-Kremlin Night Wolves biker gang widely known by his nickname, the Surgeon.

The anti-Western sentiment, sparked by the West’s wholehearted backing of the protests in Kiev, has only deepened as the U.S. and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russia for annexing the Ukrainian region of Crimea and for supporting the separatists fighting in east Ukraine.

“There’s nothing new about anti-Western sentiments in Russian society, the thing was to bring them to the fore,” said Maria Lipman, an independent analyst. “People have said for a long time that the West is there to do harm to Russia. … Now this sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy because now the West is always discussing how to punish Russia so that it will hurt more.”

 

 

2-12-2015 “Fifty Shade of ENOUGH!”

I also lunnamed-16ike  ”50 Shades of Untitled”

February 5, 2015 “The Transparency Team”

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Well, below a piece on opengovernment.org’s partnership with the British Government…is Transparency–like universal healthcare and theatre–something that the Brits do better than anyone else? Worth a look.

 

Introduction

On 20 June, a number of the UK OGP civil society network met with the Cabinet Office Transparency Team and then with Nick Hurd MP (Minister for Civil Society) to discuss the process of developing the UK’s second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. This is a note of the meeting with the Cabinet Office. A note of the meeting with Nick Hurd MP will follow.

In attendance were: Pete Lawrence (Cabinet Office), Francesca Orpen (Cabinet Office), Lizetta Lyster (Cabinet Office), Melissa Lawson (Tearfund), Sam Barker (Tearfund), Simon Burall (Involve) and Tim Hughes (Involve).

Progress update

Francesca Orpen and Lizetta Lyster have recently joined the Cabinet Office Transparency Team and will be leading on the development of the action plan, overseen by Pete Lawrence – who has recently returned to the Cabinet Office after a secondment at Companies House. After a frustrating period for the civil society network with nobody in post at the Cabinet Office, Francesca and Lizetta have hit the ground running and there seems to be a genuine desire to build on what’s already happened and learn from past mistakes.

During the meeting the Transparency Team were open in admitting to the problems with the process of developing the action plan up to now – not least the delay in getting the draft published – and are keen to ensure that the problems are not repeated. The latest news is that the draft action plan will be published on 27 June. We emphasised at the meeting that getting the action plan out for consultation is extremely important, and this is something that the Cabinet Office team recognised themselves.

One of the consequences of the delay in publication is that the plan does not reflect the commitments made by the government at the recent G8 Summit. We agreed at the meeting that while this was far from ideal, the alternative of delaying publication of the draft plan at this stage to get agreements from departments for new wording in these areas was much worse. We therefore agreed that the draft plan will begin with a section recognising this and committing to developing these commitments further for the final action plan.

Further development of the plan

We discussed in the meeting the process for further developing the action plan between now and publication in October. It was agreed that considering limited capacity we should select and prioritise a few areas in which we focus attention on developing stretching commitments. There was consensus that we should focus effort where there’s potential for most traction, but not preclude other areas for ongoing development (perhaps with a longer timeframe).

To support this, the Cabinet Office Transparency Team will be facilitating meetings between relevant members of the network and government officials across the commitments in the draft plan (and beyond if new commitments are identified). The Transparency Team see their role as collaborating with the network, identifying new areas for commitments, facilitating engagement between relevant parts of civil society and business with relevant departments, and engaging with wider civil society. Over the coming weeks, the Francesca Orpen, Lizetta Lyster and Tim Hughes will be identifying the key individuals in government and the civil society network against each of the commitments, as well as looking to involve other networks and organisations in these discussions.

It was agreed that all meetings between members of the civil society network and government officials should be transparent and open to any interested individuals from civil society. It was suggested that they should all be listing on the civil society network blog, along with who is attending, and progress towards a commitment. Francesca has committed to produce weekly updates of progress on a Friday.

The Transparency Team has already begun meeting with other departments to map open government activity across government – in particular following up on progress against commitments in the Coalition Agreement. We suggested that this process could be done publicly.

Wider civil society engagement

It was discussed that engagement with wider civil society will include asking for sessions at and attending events already taking place, organising a few events around the country, using preexisting networks, using social media and eliciting comments on the draft action plan. It was discussed that events would be attended by a representative from government and from civil society, and that Nick Hurd MP (Minister for Civil Society) would be asked to attend to demonstrate the level of engagement from government. We discussed using infrastructure organisations, sector networks and faith groups to reach a greater variety of civil society organisations. It was suggested that wider civil society should be asked the following:

  • Is what government’s saying it will do enough?
  • What else could be thrown into the mix?
  • What would be the benefit to citizens?

The Transparency Team will also be seeking to engage with business on the contents of the action plan. It was suggested that consultation responses on the draft plan be analysed jointly by somebody from the civil society network and the Transparency Team.

There was some discussion of the need to write the final action plan in terms that make sense to members of the public – linking the commitments back to the difference it will make to peoples’ lives. It was suggested that the audience of the draft action plan is unclear.

Timeline

The timeline for the development of the final action plan is as follows:

  • Departments and Ministers will be asked to sign things off on a rolling basis as they’re developed.
  • A final version will need to be ready for 15th October for the OGP Support Unit. Formal Cabinet sign off will happen at same time.
  • Publication of the plan will be at the OGP Summit in London on 31 October.

That said, we discussed seeing the development of the action plan as an ongoing process, with publication in October 2013 not being the end of its development.

[This meeting note was produced based on notes taken at the meeting by Tim Hughes]

Jan 28 2015 “The Downgraded Brokerovs”

Jan 28 Savage

 

Russia’s credit rating has been downgraded to junk status for the first time in a decade due to the collapsing oil price, the tumbling value of the rouble and sanctions imposed because of its intervention in Ukraine.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s said the downgrade was caused by the country’s reduced flexibility to cut interest rates and a weakening of the financial system.

The ratings agency said the Central Bank of Russia “faces increasingly difficult monetary policy decisions while also trying to support sustainable GDP growth”. It added: “These challenges result from the inflationary effects of exchange rate depreciation and sanctions from the west as well as counter-sanctions imposed by Russia.”

Attempts to shore up the value of the rouble have had only a temporary effect, Standard & Poor’s said, noting that the 750 basis point rise in interest rates last month to take interest rates up to 17% had only a limited impact on the rouble-dollar exchange rate.

“The rouble briefly appreciated against the dollar but has since continued to depreciate, reaching about 66 roubles to the dollar, compared to about 35 a year ago,” S&P said. The move pushed the rouble lower against the US currency on Monday , at 67 per dollar.

The ratings agency warned it had put the new rating on a negative outlook because of fears that the central bank’s ability to move interest rates could become limited, especially if the country imposed exchange controls.

“We could lower the ratings if external and fiscal buffers deteriorate over the next 12 months faster than we currently expect,” the agency said.

January 21, 2015 “State of the Union 2015″

Savage jan 21

You deserve a voice in your government, _________(Insert your name here, my fellow American Citizen)

But five years ago, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United silenced American voters by giving unprecedented spending power to private corporations and Super PACs.

You and I have been fighting it ever since – working hard to put our elections, our government, and our economy back in our hands.

We can make ourselves heard, demanding change before another crucial election passes by, but only if you sign on today and demand Congress put an end toCitizens United. Will you join me now?

Please, join me by adding your voice now and demand Congress overturn Citizens United.

I know this is as important to you as it is to me – and together, we can win this fight. But we have to act now, together, to demand Congress take immediate action to end Citizens United.

Tell Congress: Overturn Citizens United and put elections back in the hands of the people.

It’s going to take all of us speaking out together to win this fight. Thank you for joining me.

Kirsten