Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit Jolts EU’s Eastern Members as Polish Zloty Leads Plunge 

(Bloomberg)  Poland led declines in emerging Europe, with the zloty weakening the most in five months, as the U.K. vote to quit the European Union threatened to throttle aid to the bloc’s less-affluent eastern member states and curtail trade with Britain.
With its $545 billion economy and 38 million people, Poland is scheduled to receive 114.7 billion euros ($127 billion) of funds between 2014 and 2020, the most of all states in the EU. The country received about 4 billion euros in remittances annually from compatriots living in other EU countries, mostly in the U.K., central bank estimates showed last year.

While countries like Romania and Bulgaria get smaller allocations from the EU budget, they’re also more exposed than larger countries like Poland since their citizens have lower incomes.

For Warsaw, there’s the added risk that Poles owe the equivalent of $34 billion of mortgages denominated in Swiss francs, a currency traditionally used as a refuge by investors in times of turmoil. The zloty sank 2.3 percent against the franc on Friday, increasing the risk that the government will follow through with a plan to make banks foot the bill for converting home loans into zloty at subsidized rates.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

British EU referendum provokes anxiety in Eastern Europe

(Deutsche Welle) Until recently, nationalistic voices in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, were limited to the fringe. But could a possible Brexit lead to similar plebiscites in these countries? 
Labour MP Jo Cox was campaigning for Britain to stay in the EU
"It cannot be ruled out that Brexit leads to a domino effect in Eastern Europe," Asselborn told German newspaper "Tagesspiegel am Sonntag" (The Daily Mirror on Sunday).

There have long been xenophobic and nationalistic political voices in the Visegrad countries of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, but until recently, they were usually on the fringe.

Monday, June 20, 2016


Russia is the first country in the history of the Olympics to have an entire team — track and field —banned from participating in the Games because of doping. Individual athletes, especially those who have trained for years outside Russia, may be able to argue their way back in. But senior officials from the International Olympics Committee have made it clear that they will not overturn the team ban announced by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF, the body responsible for worldwide track and field oversight).

I imagine Russia will lose its Nike sponsorship too.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ukraine furious over remarks on Russia by U.N. chief Ban

The Kiev government is outraged by remarks made by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the crucial role Russia can play in ending conflicts, and no longer believes he has any moral authority, Ukraine's U.N. envoy said on Thursday.
Ban's prepared speech for the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum said Russia "has a critical role to play ... in addressing other pressing global issues, from ending the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, to safeguarding human rights and controlling the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
The delivered version was slightly different. It did not mention Ukraine but said Moscow "has a very important role to play and I really count heavily on the leadership of the Russian Federation."
Ukrainian Ambassador Volodymyr Yelchenko told reporters he was incensed by Ban's remarks which came across as praise of Moscow, which the Kiev government and Western powers accuse of supporting separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.

"I'm completely outraged by such a statement," he said. "I don't understand how the head of the United Nations can say such things."
Bulgaria says will not join any NATO Black Sea fleet after Russian warning

USS Porter Navy Ship
Reuters  Bulgaria's prime minister said on Thursday he would not join a proposed NATO fleet meant to counter Russian forces in the Black Sea as he did not want a war there, a day after Moscow warned against any build-up.
Turkey and Romania, the two other NATO members along the Black Sea coast, have called for the NATO fleet and more alliance troops in an area important for both East and West given its energy reserves and closeness to the Middle East.
Under the Montreux Convention, countries which don't have a Black Sea coastline cannot keep their warships there for more than 21 days. NATO members Turkey, Romania and Bulgaria are all Black Sea Basin countries. 
Switzerland votes to withdraw its long-standing EU application

( Switzerland has voted to withdraw its long-standing European Union application.

27 members of parliament's upper house voted to invalidate the 1992 application, backing up an earlier decision by the lower house.

Only 13 senators voted against while two abstained.

Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter said Switzerland does not intend to join and should be considered an “independent sovereign nation”.

Switzerland will now give formal notice to Brussels to consider its application withdrawn.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Russia unveils 'world's biggest' nuclear icebreaker

Moscow (AFP) - Russia on Thursday floated out a new nuclear-powered icebreaker, said to be the world's biggest and most powerful, to be used for hauling liquefied natural gas from its Arctic terminal.
Arktika, ordered by Russia's Rosatom state nuclear agency, was built at the Baltic Shipyard in Saint Petersburg, and will be ready to use by the end of next year.
Arktika is the first vessel in a project aimed at allowing year-round navigation in the Northern Passage, and in particular ship Russian energy products from the Arctic to Asia.

Kiriyenko said that contracts have already been signed for the Arktika to accompany shipments from the Yamal liquefied natural gas terminal that Russia is developing on the Yamal peninsula together with France's Total and China National Petroleum Corporation.

"In 2018 we have to ensure exports of liquefied natural gas from Yamal" Kiriyenko said. "There are already contracts for shipping 18 billion tonnes of liquified natural gas."

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Organic Power One T-34 Tank-Tomato at a Time

(Bloomberg)  The plump hybrids, named for the fearsome tank that helped trounce Hitler, are the pride of the Yuzhny Agricultural Complex, a mass of greenhouses the size of 2,300 football fields between the Black and Caspian seas. Watered by melting ice from towering Mount Elbrus, they and other strains of the fruit are grown here by the millions and trucked mainly to Moscow, 18 hours’ journey north.
“Russia is able to become the world’s largest supplier of healthy, ecologically clean and high-quality food, which Western producers have long lost,” Putin told parliament after the Turkish ban was imposed.

Russia last year joined dozens of nations in banning the commercial planting of genetically modified organisms and has since barred GMO imports -- putting Putin at the vanguard of an increasingly vocal global movement.

But the crowning achievement of his food strategy so far is grain. Russia overtook the U.S. this year to become the biggest exporter of wheat -- a milestone that followed bumper yields of corn, rice, soybeans and buckwheat.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Typhus Smells of Cossack

I came upon this recent excerpt from an 1866 Scientific American that the magazine republished while reading my hard copy this morning, it shows just how old the prejudices against Russia are:

Odors of Disease

“The odor of small pox has been compared to the smell of a he-goat; that of measles to a fresh-plucked goose; scarlatina to cheese. The smell of plague has been compared with the odor of May flowers, and that of typhus with a Cossack. —Prof. Banks, Medical Press and Circular”

Perhaps Prof, Banks had originally written "Negro" but because the US Civil War had ended just a year beforehand an editor substituted "Cossack" instead.  From a purely scientific perspective, it does make me wonder how many doctors could possibly have known how a Cossack smelled!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Russia Vows Response as US Destroyer Enters Black Sea

Treaties Limit How Long US Ship Can Stay Anyhow
by Jason Ditz, June 10, 2016
The Russian Foreign Ministry has accused the US of taking provocative action in the Black Sea with the arrival of the USS Porter, a guided missile destroyer which arrived in the area a few days ago, outfitting with a new missile system.

The Foreign Ministry said the Porter’s arrival would lead to a “response” from the Russian Navy, but did not indicate what that would be. They also complained that the planned deployment of two US aircraft carriers in the Mediterranean in July was a “show of force” aimed at threatening Russia.
The US Navy claimed the ship entered the Black Sea to “promote peace” with its shiny new offensive missile system, which the Navy had described as being installed due to the “Russian threat.” The Porter is the first US ship to enter the Black Sea in 2016.

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