Obama’s Message to Young Adults

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In what was both a humorous and serious one hour event at the White House on Tuesday, United States President Barack Obama sat down with Tumblr founder David Karp and answered and discussed questions sent in by young adults all across the U.S.

From student debt to gun violence, President Obama shared his views and opinions on some of America’s most prominent issues, and proposed ways to fix them.

During the event, Mr. Karp asked President Obama questions sent in by Tumblr users.

Tumblr, which was founded in 2007, is an insanely popular blogging website with over 190 million blogs and 83.1 billion posts.  With over 90 million posts a day, it is one of the most popular and used blogging sites in the world.

Mr. Obama answered numerous questions and gave future, financial and education advice to young adults.

He gave advice to those entering or searching for jobs to do what they enjoy most.  “You are going to do best at what you most deeply care about,” Mr. Obama said, adding that if your job is what you enjoy, the effort you put into it won’t “feel like a burden.”

President Obama also gave his insight and financial advice to those going into college, saying that an “investment in college is always going to be a smart investment”, but that it is import to research what you’re investing into, as to avoid wasting money and time on things of little to no use to you.

He also encouraged teens and young adults to find more than just one way to achieve a goal or dream–you don’t need to take the traditional road.

Mr. Obama warned teens and young adults of the dangers of not believing that they have a voice and the ability to make a change, saying that is of the utmost importance for people to realize and know that they are capable of making the world a better place.

As for the numerous problems faced at schools and universities across the U.S., President Obama stressed for the need for people to take control of the steering wheel and to choose their education and life path.

Too many young adults see college as a box to check, he said, as opposed to an opportunity to find out what matters to them.  Numerous “Young people waist a lot of time” on things that aren’t important and beneficial to them, he warned.

“Education is not a passive thing… it is an active passage” of finding what matters and is important to you, he said.

Mr. Obama seemed to suggest that schools should not just teach text book material, but also teach students traits and skills which will come in handy when they enter the real world.

He also touched on the importance of allowing transgenders the same rights as others.

The controversial subject of gun violence was also discussed by the president.  Gun violence has been rampant in the U.S. in the last two years, with numerous mass-shootings happening across the country, including on Tuesday.

“Our levels of gun violence are off the chart,” President Obama said, adding that he does respect gun violence, but believes that it is absurd that a bill can’t be passed to make those who wish to obtain a firearm first go through a background check.

He also encouraged those who want a restriction on guns to take action, saying: “If the public opinion does not demand change in Congress, it will not change.”

Mr. Obama said that the reason gun restrictions haven’t taken place on a wide scale is because those who want gun restrictions are not taking the same level of action as those who do not want gun restrictions are.

He stated that until people take action, not much is going to change.

The president warned that mass shootings have become the “norm” in the U.S., and added that he is willing to work with others to bring an end to gun violence in the United States.

In conclusion, Mr. Obama answered a question about where he saw himself in ten years, saying that while he does not know where he will be in 10 years, he does intend to make every day of the remaining two and a half years of his term “count”.  He said that it encourages him, despite all the negativity he deals with on a daily basis, that he is able to do something in office that helps others’ lives.

He said that if he comes away helping those in the middle class, it’s a good day for him.

He also added that he and his wife, Michelle Obama, are interested in working with and developing young people for a brighter and better future.

And lastly, President Obama warned young people not to become cynical; believe you can make a change; “Look out on the horizon,” and take advantage of opportunities.

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NATO General Believes Poroshenko Will Bring Stability to Ukraine

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Newly elect-President Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated on Saturday.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has congratulated the newly elected Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, on his inauguration on Saturday.

Mr. Poroshenko, 45, won the presidential election on May 25.  His inauguration brings much needed hope for the restoration of peace and stability in Ukraine after months of internal turmoil has torn the country apart and devastated numerous lives.

In late February, former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted after months of protests in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, which resulted in over 100 people dead.  An interim president, and government, took over until a democratically elected president was elected.

The new president brings hope of peace not just to the people of Ukraine, but leaders, organizations and officials across Europe and the West.

After months of fighting between the Ukrainian military and independence fighters–also labeled as separatists, pro-Russians, and “terrorists” by Kiev authorities–President Poroshenko has said he has a plan to bring peace.

Mr. Rasmussen welcomed Mr. Poroshenko’s inauguration on Saturday and wished him “success in carrying forward this new position of responsibility at a defining time in Ukraine’s history.

“The presidential elections were an important milestone for Ukraine,” Mr. Rasmussen said.  “In holding transparent and democratic elections despite significant challenges, the people of Ukraine showed their commitment to a united, independent and sovereign country.”

During the elections in May, separatists in eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions disrupted voting.  Out of the twelve poling districts in Donetsk, 10 did not take place.  In Luhansk, fourteen out of the 22 polling districts did not take place either.  Only eight-hundred out of 3,908 polling stations were open.

Reasons for the disruption ranged from fear, to direct threats against voters by separatists.

But despite these problems, the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) stated that the elections were largely successful.  Voting took place normally in other parts of Ukraine, with voting assessed positively in 98% of polling stations independently observed.

Secretary Gen. Rasmussen stated that he is confident that Mr. Poroshenko’s “leadership will contribute to the stabilization of the country, building on the inclusive political dialogue launched ahead of the elections.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stated that Moscow will respect the will of the Ukrainian people and work with the newly elected president to help bring peace and stability to Ukraine.

NATO remains committed to supporting Ukraine within the framework of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, Mr. Rasmussen said.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission is a decision-making body that is responsible for developing the NATO-Ukraine relationship.  Talks include a number of things such as strengthening defense following the annexation of Crimea by Russian in March.

NATO is finalizing “further comprehensive measures to assist Ukraine and support reforms in the country’s security and defense sector,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

Mr. Ruasmussen concluded his statement with the promise of further support for Ukraine, saying: “Ukraine is a long-standing and active NATO partner, and we look forward to working with President Poroshenko.  NATO Allies stand firm in their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

In other Developments in Ukraine:

  • OSCE SMM Observers observed anti-government rallies in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk.  Both rallies were small and non-violent.
  • Self-declared Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Donestk People’s Republic Denis Pushilin survived an attempted assassination on Saturday.  A passing car reportedly fired at Mr. Pushilin, who was not hit.  His assistant, Maxim Petruhin, was, however, killed.

 

NATO To Expand Partnership in a ‘post-Crimean World’

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NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow discussed NATO's new partnership policies in Poland on Friday

NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershbow discussed NATO’s new partnership policies in Poland on Friday

NATO has promised that the transatlantic security partnership must focus not only on collective defense in its immediate region, but global partners as well, in a “post-Crimean world”.

The statement came from NATO Deputy Secretary General Ambassador Alexander Vershblow on Friday at Wrocław Global Forum in Poland.

“Our Strategic Concept sets out collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security as three essential core tasks for NATO,” Mr. Vershblow said.  “Although Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has changed the strategic environment in a fundamental way, all three core tasks remain essential, valid and vital for our security.”

Mr. Vershblow went on to accuse Russia of changing borders “through force”, continuing to subvert a sovereign state [Ukraine] through covert means and a cynical disinformation campaign,” ripping “up the international rule book”, and seeking to “recreate a sphere of influence based on a dangerous new doctrine of limited sovereignty for countries that form part of the so-called ‘Russian World’.”

Following Moscow’s annexation of Crimea in March, NATO has heavily criticized and rebuked Russia’s “aggressive” actions in Ukraine, which the Alliance believes are bent on expanding the Kremlin’s power.

Since the Ukraine-crisis began, NATO has taken steps to meet the crisis and strengthen collective defense from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Mr. Vershblow said.

Every NATO member is contributing in one way or another; either with aircraft, naval ships, ground troops and/or commanders and planners, he added.

NATO is also “considering the longer-term implications of Russia’s actions for our Alliance.”

Over the last few months, Western countries have applied sanctions against Russia–allegedly damaging its already crippled economy–in consequence for Moscow’s supposed backing of anti-Kiev separatists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

In light of the conflict between the EU and the US and Russia over Ukraine, NATO Defense Ministers discussed earlier this week about a “Readiness Action Plan”, which includes improving NATO’s reaction time, enhancing its intelligence and awareness capabilities, pre-positioning equipment and supplies further East, “and carrying out more high-intensity military exercises in more demanding scenarios.”

NATO is also working towards filling “capability gaps” that exist within the alliance, Mr. Vershblow said.  These gaps include drones, transport aircraft, Special Forces and deployable C2, all of which are needed to be able to “react quickly, together, and effectively to all threats, whether here in Europe or out of area.”

Ambassador Vershblow stated that developing these capabilities “puts a premium on our ‘Smart Defense’ multinational capability projects, and on further regional cooperation.”  He added that “Poland and its Višegrad partners continue to demonstrate that this is a pragmatic and cost-effective way to build greater security together, and in a way that makes both NATO and the European Union stronger.”

Mr. Vershblow challenged NATO members who do not spend the required 2% of their GDP on defense, to raise their defense spending to the expected percent.

Order Descending NATO Members’ GDP Defense Spending According to WorldBank 

  1. U.S. 4.2%
  2. Greece 2.6%
  3. U.K. 2.4%
  4. France 2.3%
  5. Turkey 2.3%
  6. Estonia 1.9%
  7. Poland 1.9%
  8. Portugal 1.8%
  9. Croatia 1.7%
  10. Italy 1.7%
  11. Albania 1.5%
  12. Bulgaria 1.5%
  13. Denmark 1.4%
  14. Norway 1.4%
  15. Canada 1.3%
  16. Germany 1.3%
  17. Netherlands 1.3%
  18. Romania 1.3%
  19. Slovenia 1.2%
  20. Belgium 1.1%
  21. Czech Republic 1.1%
  22. Slovakia 1.1%
  23. Lithuania 1.0%
  24. Latvia 0.9%
  25. Spain 0.9%
  26. Hungary 0.8%
  27. Luxembourg 0.6%
  28. Iceland 0.1%

“The crisis in Ukraine has made us go ‘back to basics’ and focus more on collective defense,” Mr. Vershblow said.  But it must not “lead to a self-centered, inward-locking Alliance,” he added.  The Alliance must focus on the “Future NATO” that is needed to meet the “evolving 21st century security needs.”

Dialogue and cooperation with partner countries is “vital” to fulfill NATO’s vision of the future, the ambassador said.  This applies to NATO members, and Ukraine and “other Eastern neighbors whose sovereignty is being challenged by Russia.”

Mr. Vershblow stated that partnership is crucial for keeping Europe free, stable, and peaceful, and NATO must keep its doors open for European partners who wish to join the Alliance.

He also added that NATO, in coordination with the EU, the UN, and regional organizations such as the African Union, must do what they can to help countries in the Middle East and North Africa develop their own defense capacity.

In conclusion to his speech, Mr. Vershblow summarized NATO’s new policies: “when it comes to shaping transatlantic security and defense in a post-Crimean world, we should avoid false choices.  NATO’s duty is to defend all 28 Allies against any possible risk or threat to their security, whenever and wherever it may occur.  This means we not only need the right capabilities, but also the right connections, so that we can deter aggression at home and project stability abroad.”

A Plan to Bring Peace to Ukraine

While responding to journalists on Friday at the 70th Anniversary of D-Day in Northern France, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the newly-elected Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had mentioned to him a “plan” to bring an immediate cease-fire between Ukraine military forces and separatists in Ukraine.

In recent weeks, Moscow has condemned Ukraine’s military operations against separatists in Eastern and Southern Ukraine, and demanded an immediate end to them.

Fighting between the Ukrainian military forces and separatists in the last few months has left over 100 dead–soldiers, militants and civilians.  Kiev authorities have accused the Kremlin of backing and supporting the armed separatists–who are deemed as terrorists by the authorities–and demanded that Russia use its power to convince the gunmen to lay down their arms.

In April, at Geneva, Moscow had agreed to use its influence to bring an end to the fighting, but their promises never came about.

Fighting has drastically intensified since and threatens to divide the country in two if it does not end soon.  Many citizens of Ukraine believe the country is already in a civil-war.

The situation took a turn for the worse on May 11 when separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk regions declared independence after holding referendums on self-rule.  The Ukrainian government has refused to recognize the referendums as legitimate–including the one in Crimea–and has been conducting what they call “anti-terrorists” military operations against the separatists.

The partial aftermath of some of the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers at BCP at Marynivka.  Photo by Konstantin Tabakayev/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

The partial aftermath of some of the fighting between separatists and Ukrainian soldiers.  Location, BCP at Marynivka. Photo by Konstantin Tabakayev/State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

And amid all of this, the West and Russia have continuously accused each other of fueling the fire and doing nothing to extinguish the growing flame.

President Putin said that he does not know if Mr. Poroshenko’s plan will be implemented and carried out, but he “thought the general attitude seems right; I like it.”

He added that if the plan does go-through, Russia will work towards developing relations on other areas, “including economic relations.”

Moscow has stated that they will “respect” the will of the Ukrainian people, and work with authorities to bring stabilization and peace to the agonized Ukraine.

 

Results from the pro-Russian separatist referendums in Donetsk and Luhansk show an overwhelming “yes” for self-rule and have declared themselves to be independent countries.

Ninety percent voted for independence from Ukraine according to results from the referendum.

There was roughly a 70% turnout.

In Luhansk and Dontesk, 96% and 90% respectively voted for autonomy from the Ukraine.

Kiev and the West claimed that the referendum was illegal and that they would not recognize it as legitimate.  The Ukrainian government stated that the vote was “fascist”.

“These attempts at referendums have zero credibility in the eyes of the world; they are illegal by anybody’s standards–they don’t meet any standard, not a single standard of objectivity, transparency, fairness, or being properly conducted,” British MP William Hague told reporters.

Russia, on the other hand, stated that the will of the people must be respected.

“We respect the will of the population of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and hope the practical implantation of the outcome of the referendums will proceed along civilized lines without further outbreaks of violence, and through dialogue,” Russian Diplomat Sergei Lavrov said.

Just two hours after the voting ended, the newly formed nation, the “People’s Republic of Donetsk”, asked to join Russia.

Russian MP Vyacheslav Nikonov stated that Moscow would have to contemplate the “economic, political, and military risks” before deciding whether or not to annex Donetsk and Luhansk.

It does seem though that he supports the regions’ population, saying that “the residents of Luhansk and Donetsk deserve no less support from us, indeed they deserve much more support from us than the residents of Crimea.”

Roman Lyagin, head of the de facto central election committee in Donetsk, stated that the region’s population would be the ones to decide whether they would stay with Ukraine, or join Russia, or become an independent nation.

In Luhansk, Vasily Nikitin, deputy head of the separatist movement in the region, congratulated the beginning of the “Luhansk republic” and said: “We are now preparing an appeal to the U.N. and international community asking them to recognize us.”

But it seems that some people in Luhansk don’t just want to be an independent nation, they want also want to be apart of Russia.

Eighty year old Anatoly Sukharev, a resident of Luhansk, asked Mr. Nikitin on Monday: “What is next?  When are we going to have this referendum [to join Russia]?”

Vasily replied, saying that the “republic” needs to “organize as a country” before asking to join Russia.

He also said that the new country’s constitution is nearly finished, and that the people of Luhansk would not participate in Ukraine’s presidential election on May 25.

Donetsk authorities also stated they will not allow voting in the election.

The situation in Ukraine has steadily worsened ever since the ousting of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych followed by the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March.

The West and Kiev have repeatedly accused Russia of sending Russian special forces into eastern Ukraine to provoke pro-Russian activist to strike out against the Ukrainian government.

The U.S. and Ukrainian interim government have also claimed that Russia has been supplying the pro-Russian militants with weapons and supplies.

Moscow has continued to deny these claims, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t true.

Journalist in Ukraine have found at least partial evidence of Russia Moscow pro-Russian militants with weapons and equipment.

For example, in Vice’s documentation of the crisis, Russian Roulette in Ukraine, U.S. journalist Simon Ostrovsky found supplies owned by pro-Russian activist that apparently was from Russia.

He also interviewed Russian military veterans who had come to eastern Ukraine to help the Russian speaking population there.

The “little green men”, as some called them, that invaded Crimea back in March turned out to really be Russian soldiers.

Those “little green men” are the most Russian looking “militants” I’ve ever seen. Maybe, it’s because they’re actually Russian soldiers! Surprise! Surprise!

 

While we’re on the topic of Russian invasion, let’s discuss the possibility of Russia sending in special forces to provoke the pro-Russian activist to lash out against Kiev and cry for independence.

If these accusations by the West are true, then Moscow did a great job pulling it off.  They already gained Crimea and it looks like they may very well gain Donetsk and Luhansk too.

As you can see, Donetsk and Luhansk are right next to Russia. Crimea, however, is not.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s request for pro-Russian activist to postpone their referendum and conduct dialogue with the Ukrainian government may have just been a political move by him to cover up what his real plans to slowly take over Ukraine by annexing pro-Russian regions one at a time.

Now that is just a conspiracy theory of mine that has no proof, but it seems like a great plan.  After all, with all those sanctions being thrown at his inner circle, it would make sense that he would want to appear as if he backed off from his aggressive attitude in Ukraine.

But what do I know?  I’m just some American highschooler writing up facts and opinions on a blog that no one reads.  (No, that is not a gripe, it is a fact).

Moving on to legality of a referendum, after doing a bit of research I managed to find thisthe written law of referendums in Ukraine.

It is fairly long so here are the highlights:

  • An all-Ukrainian referendum is a supreme form of direct democracy, and an expression of free will of Ukrainian citizens.
  • Any issue may become subject of an all-Ukrainian referendum with an exception of those prohibited by the Constitution of Ukraine.
  •  An all-Ukrainian referendum called by the public initiative is a way of citizens to adopt decisions on all issues with the exception of those stipulated by the Article 74 of the Constitution of Ukraine (in reference to draft laws on taxing policies, budget and amnesty).
  • An all-Ukrainian referendum on changing the territory of Ukraine is a way for citizens to approve/disapprove a draft law on international agreement ratification on changing the territory of Ukraine. The president is to conclude an international agreement ratification, and then to submit this document to review at the Verkhovna Rada.
  • The Verkhovna Rada is to declare an all-Ukrainian referendum on the territorial changes of Ukraine.
But I think it’s this part that is most important in determining if the referendum held by the pro-Russian separatist was illegal or not.
  • The decision to appoint an all-Ukrainian referendum on changing the territory of Ukraine is approved by the decree of Verkhovna Rada.

That pretty much speaks for itself.  The Verkhovna Rada, A.K.A. the Supreme Council of Ukraine, legally decides whether or not to hold a referendum on the changing of Ukrainian territory.

(Interesting note: The Verkhovna Rada declared Ukraine’s Independence in 1991.)

But the laws of a country don’t mean jack when its people refuse to obey them.  And no matter how much Kiev and the West cry out that the referendum by pro-Russian activist is illegal and illegitimate, it isn’t going to stop them from continuing with their independence from Ukraine.

Everyday it looks more and more like the country is heading towards a civil-war.

I think Maxim, a 28 year-old citizen of Andreevka, a small village outside of Slovyansk, summed up what a lot of Ukrainian are feeling right now: “I am ready to accept any government, just to make it calm again.”

Maxim holding his bald kitties. Photo by Harriet Salem, Vice News.

Checkout my old blog at http://huntergates98.blogspot.com/ where I have more information on the Ukraine crisis!

 

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