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The school lunches that shame America: Photos reveal just how meager US students’ meals are compared to even the most cash-strapped of nations

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This is from The U. K. Daily Mail.

Students in Cuba are eating better lunches than American students.

Look at student meals from around the world.

 

 

  • Korean schools serve hearty fish soup and fermented cabbage, kimchi while Greece, Spain and France all serve fresh meat, vegetables and fish 
  • However, students in the world’s richest nation lunches are the unhealthiest with lots of processed items
  • The contrasts between America’s school meals and those in far less fortunate economies are stark and suggest Michelle Obama’s push for more healthful lunches nationwide may not be giving kids enough to eat

 

Mouthwatering photos of school lunches served around the world reveal even children in Ukraine, Estonia and Greece are treated to delectable meals each day. School children in America, meanwhile, aren’t nearly so lucky.

Whereas a kid in France might be treated to a juicy steak and a hunk of brie, the richest country in the world’s youths are more likely to receive unidentified meat served alongside little more than a starch like white pasta, fries or a roll.

The contrasts between America’s school meals and those in far less fortunate economies are stark and suggest Michelle Obama’s push for more healthful lunches nationwide may not be enough.

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What is it? School lunches in the United States stand in stark contrast to the wholesome and in some cases even decadent meals served to kids in other markedly less fortunate nations

The first new school lunch standards championed by Michelle Obama have been phased in over the last several school years.

In addition to whole grain requirements, the rules set fat, calorie, sugar and sodium limits on foods in the lunch line and beyond. While many schools have had success putting the rules in place, others have said they are too restrictive and costly.

Backlash against the rules have spawned a wave of social media photos along with the tag #thanksMichelleObama. If these pictures are any indication, schools have responded to the rules by cutting down on portions to reduce fat and calories rather than by using potentially more costly ingredients.

Meanwhile, the widely different meals from Spain, Ukraine, Greece, South Korea, Brazil, France, Finland and Italy are all fresh and wholesome, with fish, steak and vegetables featuring prominently.

But in the UK and US, lunch trays feature processed foods such as popcorn chicken, frankfurters, cookies, and beans from a tin. 

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What children in other countries eat (clockwise from top left): Ukraine’s version of sausage and mash; Brazil’s plantains, rice and black beans; beetroot salad and pea soup in Finland and steak with beans and carrots in France (photo courtest Sweetgreen)

 

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South Indian school children eat off a thali plate which has white rice, sambar (dhal), smoked gourd vegetable stir-fry, curd, buttermilk and kesari, a type of sweet dessert made from semolina

 

The school lunch comparisons were revealed by Sweetgreen, a chain of US restaurants, and website Never Seconds, run by Scottish schoolgirl Martha Payne, who logs her thoughts and experiences of eating school meals at her primary school in Lochgilphead, Scotland.

The 12-year-old launched the blog in 2012 as a school writing project with assistance from her father, David,

Written under the pseudonym ‘VEG’ (Veritas Ex Gustu – truth from tasting), with the subtitle ‘One primary school pupil’s daily dose of school dinners’, the blog features daily entries on the $3 school meal that Martha/ ‘VEG’ has chosen that day, her thoughts on the food and its quality, a count of the number of hairs, a health rating, a picture, and marks out of 10 based on a ‘Food-o-Meter’.

Martha, who has been invited to talk in international conferences is currently raising money for Scottish charity Mary’s Meals, through her JustGiving page.

Mary’s Meals  – which began in 2002 as a one-off school feeding programme – currently provides daily life changing meals to over 989,000 hungry children in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and South America.

The surprising pictures show just how the UK and US measures up to the rest of the world when it comes to feeding schoolchildren.

While the majority of lunches feature fresh foods, US tray is packed with processed items.

Similarly the typical UK school lunch is sadly lacking in fresh vegetables, featuring a baked potato, sausage and beans from a tin, and a half corn on the cob with a melon slice to follow.

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Lunch in an Estonian school is rice with a piece of meat and purple cabbage. They also have bread and a get a cup of chocolate drink

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UK school dinner of frankfurters and beans, a baked potato, corn on the cob, slice of melon and a box drink

 

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Balanced diet: Italian children get pasta, fish, two kinds of salad, rocket and caprese, a bread roll and grapes (courtesy Sweetgreen)

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In Finland lunch is mainly a vegetarian affair of pea soup, carrots, beetroot salad, crusty roll and sweet pancake with berries to finish.

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School lunch in Alba, Spain (left): white flesh peaches, strawberries and yogurt melts, cous-cous, broccoli, cucumbers and roasted salmon; (right): Poached apple pears, strawberries and blue berries, boiled swede and fresh garden peas

 

In France, children start their meal with a generous slab of Brie.

This is followed by a hearty portion of rare steak, served with two types of vegetables – carrots and green beans.

And you won’t find sweets on this lunch tray. The healthy theme continues into dessert, with the young ones  tucking into kiwi fruit and apples.

The South Korean lunch is equally as impressive.

A milky fish soup to start followed by a serving of stir fried rice with tofu, broccoli and peppers. On the side is kimchi, the traditional Korean condiment of fermented cabbage.

In Scandinavia, Finnish schools dish up a vegetarian lunch of pea soup, beetroot salad, carrots and a roll. For pudding there is pannakkau, a sweet pancake served with strawberries and blueberries.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2958640/Photos-school-lunches-served-world-reveal-just-meager-America-s-meals-compared-cash-strapped-nations.html

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South Korean children tuck into broccoli and peppers, fried rice with tofu, fermented cabbage and fish soup

 

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Brie, green beans, carrot, rare steak and pudding of kiwi fruit and apples is served in French schools

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A meal of traditional flavours: Brazil’s rice and black beans, baked plantain, pork with peppers and coriander, green salad and a seeded roll

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Rice, a chicken croquette, a piece of taro root and yellow pea soup is the school lunch in Old Havana, Cuba

 

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In Japan, school children tuck into fried fish, dried seaweed, tomatoes, miso soup with potatoes, rice (in the metal container), and milk

A plump portion of lightly fried fish sits atop rocket salad in the Italian lunch tray. This is accompanied by a small portion of pasta, a simple caprese salad of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, a crusy roll and a bunch of grapes.

Most of the schools have kept to traditional foods for the school lunch.

Children in Spain start their meal with cold tomato soup, gazpacho, served with shrimp and brown rice. This is served with a seeded roll, peppers with red cabbage and half an orange for dessert.

Children in Greece have baked chicken with orzo, stuffed grape leave, cucumber and tomato salad, yoghurt with pomegranate seeds and oranges.

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Wholesome: Seeded roll, shrimp with brown rice, gazpacho and tri-colour peppers. Dessert is half an orange

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A serving of borscht (beetroot soup) with pickled cabbage, sausages and mash. Dessert is a sweet pancake

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Greek school lunches feature baked chicken with orzo, stuffed grape leaves, salad of cucumber and tomatoes, yogurt with pomegranate seeds and two oranges

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hanks Michelle Obama? New school lunch rules backed by FLOTUS have students nationwide tweeting ‘#thanksMichelleObama’ along with photos of meals like these

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Michelle Obama? New school lunch rules backed by FLOTUS have students nationwide tweeting ‘#thanksMichelleObama’ along with photos of meals like these

Traditional South American food such as rice with black beans, baked plantains and pork with vegetables are on offer for Brazilian children. They also had a side serving of salad and bread with their meal.

In Ukraine children feast on mashed potato, sausages, borscht, cabbage and syrniki, a type of dessert pancake.

US school lunches feature fried popcorn chicken with ketchup, mashed potatoes, peas, a fruit cup and a chocolate chip cookie.

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Bowls of salad are ready to be served at Delcare Edu Center, a local kindergarten and child care center in the business district of Singapore

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A healthier UK school dinner: Two trays at a primary school in London. The meal at right consists of pasta with broccoli and slices of bread, and fruit. At left are vegetable chili with rice and broccoli, sponge cake with custard, and a banana

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In France, school lunch is an art form: hot, multi-course and involving vegetables. A meal of rice, salmon, ratatouille, a slice of bread, a salad with celery and carrots, and an orange and donut at the Anne Franck school in Lambersart, northern France

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2958640/Photos-school-lunches-served-world-reveal-just-meager-America-s-meals-compared-cash-strapped-nations.html#v-4046745975001

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Flyers calling for registration of Jews in Ukraine provide chilling reminder of past

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This is from Jews For The Preservation Of Firearms Ownership.

Is this a false flag being raised to create  racial tensions in Ukraine ?

It could be the beginning of another Kristallnacht.

 

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By David Codrea, April 18th 2014
JPFO writer contributor, © 2014.

 

Whether the story turns out to be a “provocation,” as the pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin, whose signature allegedly appears on flyers calling on Ukranian Jews to register themselves and pay special taxes is now claiming, or whether it is a precursor of “official” policies to come, the news has certainly grabbed the world’s attention and provided a shocking reminder of a past some alive today who survived it still remember.

“Jews in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk where pro-Russian militants have taken over government buildings were told they have to ‘register’ with the Ukrainians who are trying to make the city become part of Russia,” USA Today reported Thursday.

“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that Jews in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk were recently given notices instructing them to officially identify themselves as Jews,” The Washington Times added, showing the administration has not immediately dismissed the accounts as unofficial.

Pushilin’s denial is giving cause for hope that his political opponents were attempting to create hysteria and resistance. Still, assuming (but not yet accepting) that’s the case, why such a story would be initially perceived as credible should alarm all, and strengthen the conviction that now is hardly the time for Ukrainian Jews to be relaxing their guard.

It’s not just the troubled history of the Jewish people in that part of the world, including that some Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis on exterminating them. While post-WWII social developments may have given some encouragement, as recently as February, Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi was urging Jews to flee Kiev after attacks on students there.

“I told my community to get out of the city and if possible out of the state … there are many warnings about planned attacks against Jewish institutions,” Chief Rabbi Moshe Reuven Asman confirmed. “We have been told by the Israeli Embassy to not go outside.”

Fleeing? Locking themselves up indoors? Appealing to the Israeli foreign minister to “help protect [the] community”? Are those the only options?

It would seem so, if possessing the tools of self-defense is off the table. Without an amendment proposed by the Ukrainian Gun Owners Association guaranteeing “Everyone has the right to freedom of owning a firearm to protect their life and health, housing and property, life and health of other people’s constitutional rights and freedoms in the case of usurpation of power, the encroachments on the constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” and with “everyone” meaning Jews, too, that would seem the case, especially with the country’s political future so uncertain.

Not that the government retaining power promises much in the terms of gun ownership reforms in a country with laws categorized as “restrictive” by GunPolicy.org, a Sydney School of Public Health project providing an online compilation of global gun statistics and law summaries. The law not only mandates “Applicants for a gun owner’s license in Ukraine are required to prove genuine reason to possess a firearm,” but also “requires that a record of the acquisition, possession and transfer of each privately held firearm be retained in an official register.”

And should Mr. Putin prevail in his apparent quest for adding the Ukraine back into Russia’s captured territorial holdings, don’t expect a change in such policies from him. Despite a manly PR image that has him shooting guns at ranges, inspecting military weapons at manufacturing facilities, striding bare-chested through the woods with a scoped rifle and cozying up to “action star” Steven Seagal to push for firearm exports to the U.S., the former KFB operative has shown a decided preference for a state monopoly of violence after a gunman killed six people in southwest Russia last April.

True to “progressive” gun-grabber form, he blamed the people who didn’t do anything wrong.

“Russian citizens should not be allowed to freely own guns for purposes of self-defense, says President Vladimir Putin,” UPI reported.

“I do not support the idea of free arms distribution in Russia,” Putin was quoted. “It is dangerous to artificially stimulate this process.”

That would seem to cinch it for Ukrainian citizens if Putin’s opinion holds any sway over areas his supporters there help him to dominate.

But back to the registration of Jews: As this is being written, doubt still exists both to the authenticity of the flyer being officially sanctioned, as well as to denials coming from the camp accused of distributing them.

“[Pushilin] claims he had nothing to do with the writing or distribution of the fliers, but seems to acknowledge that ‘some idiots’ from his organization did in fact hand them out,” Politix is reporting.

And as history has proven time and again, registration, of people and of property they can use to preserve life and liberty, like guns, can lead to both being rounded up and eliminated by the state.

An historical example demonstrating both is the story of Alfred Flatow, an Olympic multiple gold and silver medal winner, a firearm owner and a Jew.

“In 1938, just weeks before Reichskristallnacht (Night of the Broken Glass), in Nazi Germany, Berlin police arrested Alfred Flatow,” attorney and author scholar Stephen P. Halbrook wrote in a scholarly paper examining the period. “His crime: being a Jew in lawful possession of firearms.

“The police knew he possessed firearms because he dutifully registered them in 1932 under a decree by the liberal Weimar Republic,” Halbrook explained. “In anticipation of the pogrom, the Nazi leadership launched a campaign to disarm Jews. Flatow was one of many who were arrested and turned over to the Gestapo. He would eventually be deported and die in a concentration camp.”

Registration of firearms in compliance with “the law” can clearly lead to confiscation of more than just guns. And fast-forwarding to the present, and to our part of the world, we see those who would do both calling for the incremental step of “universal background checks” as “reasonable commonsense gun safety” measures, conveniently ignoring that no less a source than the “Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies” by Greg Ridgeway, Ph.D. Deputy Director National Institute of Justice, notes “Effectiveness depends on the ability to reduce straw purchasing, requiring gun registration …”

Still, some would insist that murderous totalitarianism “could never happen here,” ignoring a bloody documented history of the world that irrefutably confirms “evil governments did wipe out 170,000,000 innocent non-military lives in the 20th Century alone.”

That’s not only a form of (potential) holocaust denial; it’s a denial of observable reality.

Because where in the past has any civilization, including ours, been guaranteed stasis? Has not despotism and mass destruction plagued every civilization that preceded ours? Is it not, in fact, still commonplace throughout the globe? By what suspension of reality, by what denial of the observable and the probable, by what art, device or magic are we sheltered few immune from catastrophe?

Are we certain, from our brief and privileged vantage point, that such things will ever remain headline curiosities? Is it not whistling past the graveyard of history, not to mention just plain ignorant, to proclaim that our familiar way of life will forever be the norm, when everything that has gone before us shows we are, instead, the extremely lucky beneficiaries of a rare and fortunate convergence of circumstances?

One, by the way, that has only been preserved with arms …?

Hillary spins quite a fairy tale when she can’t think of any of her own accomplishments

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This is from BizPac Review.

It is simple Hillary did not do squat as Secretary Of State.

Unless you count making the world laugh at America.

We can not forget the “Reset Button” she gave to the Russians on Obama’s behalf. 

 

Hillary Clinton was at a loss to list even one accomplishment as secretary of state during her appearance Thursday at the Women of the World Summit in New York City.

“When you look at your time as secretary of state, what are you most proud of?” the moderator, journalist and author Thomas L Friedman asked. “And what do you feel was unfinished, and maybe have another crack at one day?”

Clinton called the question a “good” one, saying that’s why Friedman “wins prizes.” Then she went into evasion mode.

“Look, I really see my role as secretary, in fact leadership in general in a democracy, as a relay race,” she said. “When you run the best race you can run, you hand off the baton. Some of what hasn’t been finished may go on to be finished, so when President Obama asked me to be secretary of state, I agreed.”

World events by 2009, Clinton said, had created “a perilous time,” and her marching orders were to tell the world that “we were going to get our house in order” and “stimulate growth.”

Of course, such domestic issues have nothing to do with her role as secretary of state — and the marching orders have been left undone. The economy has worsened, the middle class has shrunk, and fewer people are employed now than when Obama took office.

And yet, Clinton said she was “really proud of the stabilization … that leads us to deal with problems like Ukraine.”

Ukraine is not a problem being addressed by the Obama administration. As for “stabilization,” the world is now a tinderbox, relations with our allies have deteriorated, and then there’s that Benghazi thing, which Clinton’s State Department was warned about, but did nothing to prevent.

Still, Clinton was able to rack up more frequent flyer miles than any other secretary of state in history.

“Then of course, a lot of particulars, but I am finishing my book, so you’ll be able to read all about it,” she said.

So if we want to know what her “accomplishments” are, we’re just going to have to put in our order at Amazon. Until then, they’re a secret.

Watch her attempt to answer below, then check out “This is how a real man peels potatoes.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMWZeLqwllY

Rumors of the Great Red Ammo Scare ‘unsubstantiated’

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This is from Guns.com.

 

The last thing we need is another ammo scare, don't believe the hype (Photo by: Jim Grant)

The last thing we need is another ammo scare, don’t believe the hype (Photo by: Jim Grant)

Recently, several gun bloggers and websites have reported on either a looming ban on Russian ammo or that Russia has decided to stop importing ammunition to the U.S., but several vendors, including Wolf Ammunition, are contradicting the rumors, saying the rumors are unsubstantiated, according toreports.

I know at least a few of you out there are thinking: I might as well load up, why risk it?

You are welcome to buy all the ammo you can afford. I’m sure Wolf, Tula and Red Army will be happy to oblige. However, assuming the ammunition people are talking about is 7.62×39, the standard round for AKs and SKSs, there is no reason to panic. Even if Obama signs an executive order banning all Russian ammunition, the supply of 7.62 would be unaffected for the most part. Red Army Standard and Hot Shot have factories, not just in the Ukraine, but in Romania as well.

If you are troubled about an increase in price, don’t be. Yes, if Ukraine and Russian imports are banned the price of Red Army and Hot Shot will rise until supply can reach demand. That is the nature of supply and demand and eventually those numbers will even out and return to normal. On the other hand, I can promise you, if everyone goes out to buy 10 cases of ammo, the following week steel-cased 7.62 will be the same price as Hornady hunting ammo.

Those of you concerned with 5.45 may actually have something to be worried about, but only if you shoot surplus like 7n6. What is currently stateside is probably all we’ll see, but the commercial price of 5.45 is right in line with commercial 7.62×39. It’s not quite as cheap, but still very affordable.

Lastly, 7.62x54r ammo comes from Bulgaria and Romania, so I wouldn’t worry too much. The uncorroborated rumor concerns Russia, which is miles away.

What I am trying to say is, buy what you need, but don’t go overboard. No one knows what’s going on yet and for the majority of consumers, having Russian imports gridlocked will be inconvenient but not devastating.

Ukrainian Swamp Sausage

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This is from AmmoLand.

This is a great history lesson.

The question is how to intervene without causing World War lll?

 

Wisconsin –-(Ammoland.com)-  Have you ever seen sausage made?

First you have to kill something, a cow, a pig, a lamb or even a chicken. Then you have to butcher the carcass into smaller manageable hunks of meat. Next you get out the meat grinder and push the chunks of meat through, to grind it into the consistency of hamburger. Now you add the spices and other ingredients to flavor the meat to your liking. Once the meat is coated with your choice of flavoring you push that meat back through the grinder again.

This time the meat is injected into tubes (pig guts) and re-formed from a living animal to a shape and consistency you, the sausage maker, and consumer want.

Now think of the Ukraine as sausage. In the 1930s Stalinist Russia systematically starved the Ukrainian people. Those who attempted to escape a slow death would try to hide in the swamps of North West Ukraine. But when you are hungry you do not move very fast, and Soviet troops would run the Ukrainian people down on the edge of the Pripyat Marshes.

Some were shot, but to save Mother Russia the cost of bullets many were beaten to death in the swampy waters of that marsh. Beating these emaciated people to a bloody pulp was sort of like the meat being prepared to make sausage. Those few who survived were then re-formed like good little sausage links in the image of their Soviet masters.

Thus was born Ukrainian Swamp Sausage, the living and the dead kind. In August of 1941 the Germans invaded Ukraine. Many Ukrainians welcomed the Germans as liberators from the Soviets.

Unfortunately, the German SS under Heinrich Himmler had actually taken to heart the previous efforts of the Soviets. The Germans started to chase down the fleeing Ukrainians who, like their forefather’s had done for many generations, ran to the Pripyat Marshes to try and escape and survive. German soldiers wanted to save their Fatherland the cost of bullets (how thoughtful) so they too would beat the Ukrainians to death in the swamps, a sort of German blood-sausage version of Ukrainian Swamp Sausage.

In most cases the Germans were not interested in re-forming the surviving Ukrainians into “new” sausage links. It was much easier to beat them to death and leave to bodies in the swamp.

The 22nd SS (Death-Head) Cavalry Regiment would drive the women and children into the swamp. When the water was not deep enough to drown them outright, more bloody beatings-more “swamp sausage”. You can find WWII film footage of German army artillery firing into the swamps and their air force dropping bombs onto the Pripyat swamp. Artillery and aerial bombs would be mechanized meat grinders for the sausage makers.

The systematic starving of the Ukraine by Stalin in 1932-33 was the cause of death for approximately four million Ukrainians. It was called the Holodomor, meaning man-made famine.

What you need to understand was the west quietly knew about the Holodomor but still allowed Soviet Russia to join the League of Nations, because it was all about trade. Stalin starved the Ukraine so he could take the grain and sell if for hard currency. He then turned around and used the western money to buy western manufactured goods that he could not get make in glorious communist Russia, because their quality of production was abysmal.

And yes, for the sake of money, the west, to include our then progressive president Roosevelt, looked the other way. The fact he had numerous communists within his inner circle of advisers may have had some influence in this area.

Ukraine has suffered at the hands of the Russians and the Germans, and it is going to happen again.

Putin will not give up the Ukraine to the west. Also like the grain Stalin sold to the west for hard currency, Putin must sell his oil for today’s petro dollars, or in this case German petro Euros.

When Putin finally sends tanks into Ukraine and starts grinding up the locals into fresh new Ukrainian Swamp Sausage do you really think Western Europe is going to rise up and stop him in the name of humanity? Winter is still on in Europe and the easy living socialists do not want their central heating cut off, due to the lack of Russian oil and gas. What is a few less Ukrainians any way, especially if it means the lights of Berlin and Paris stay on.

I am sure there is someone in Western Europe who owns a body-bag or casket business, which will prosper in this time of strife. Or I am sure some western company will be happy to sell a large shipment of bulldozers and backhoes to the Russians so they can dig the mass graves that will be needed.

In the US we really do not understand the strategic importance of Ukraine to the Russians but we will start to (maybe sort of) understand as the body count rises. Ukrainian Swamp Sausage production is sadly fixing to commence yet again.

Major Van Harl
USAF Ret
vanharl@aol.com

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.: Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  vanharl@aol.com

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Russian moves raise stakes in Ukraine conflict

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This is from My Way News.

The Russian Bear seems to be flexing his muscles.

While metro sexual,mom jeans wearing Nancy Boy occupier

of the White House sends strongly worded objections.

While gutting or military and destroying our troops morale.

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine, Ukraine (AP) – Masked gunmen stormed the parliament of Ukraine’s strategic Crimea region as Russian fighter jets screamed above the border, while Ukraine’s newly formed government pledged to prevent a national breakup with the strong backing of the West – the stirrings of a potentially dangerous confrontation reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.

Moscow reportedly granted shelter to Ukraine’s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was said to be holed up in a luxury government retreat and to have scheduled a news conference Friday near the Ukrainian border. As gunmen wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms erected a sign reading “Crimea is Russia” in the provincial capital, Ukraine’s interim prime minister declared that the Black Sea territory “has been and will be a part of Ukraine.”

The escalating conflict sent Ukraine’s finances plummeting further, prompting Western leaders to prepare an emergency financial package.

Yanukovych, whose approach to Moscow set off three months of pro-Europe protests, finally fled by helicopter last weekend as his allies deserted him. The humiliating exit was a severe blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been celebrating his signature Olympics even as Ukraine’s drama came to a head. The Russian leader has long dreamt of pulling Ukraine – a huge country of 46 million people considered the cradle of Russian civilization – closer into Moscow’s orbit.

(AP) Pro-Russian demonstrators march with a huge Russian flag during a protest in front of a local…
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For Ukraine’s neighbors, the specter of Ukraine breaking up evoked memories of centuries of bloody conflict.

“Regional conflicts begin this way,” said Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, calling the confrontation “a very dangerous game.”

Russia has pledged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity. But the dispatch of Russian fighter jets Thursday to Ukraine’s borders and drills by some 150,000 Russian soldiers – almost the entirety of its troop force in the western part of the country – signaled strong determination not to lose Ukraine to the West.

Thursday’s dramatic developments pose an immediate challenge to Ukraine’s new authorities as they named an interim government for the country, whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West. Crimea, which was seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great, was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires.

In the capital, Kiev, the new prime minister said Ukraine’s future lies in the European Union, but with friendly relations with Russia.

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Arseniy Yatsenyuk, picked Thursday in a boisterous parliamentary session, now faces the thorny task of restoring stability in a country that is not only deeply divided politically but on the verge of financial collapse. The 39-year-old served as economy minister, foreign minister and parliamentary speaker before Yanukovych took office in 2010, and is widely viewed as a technocratic reformer who enjoys the support of the U.S.

Shortly before the lawmakers chose him, Yatsenyuk insisted that the country wouldn’t accept the secession of Crimea. The Black Sea territory, he declared, “has been and will be a part of Ukraine.”

In Simferopol, the Crimean regional capital, gunmen toting rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles raised the Russian flag over the local parliament building. The men threw a flash grenade in response to a journalist’s questions. They wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of victory in World War II.

Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as acting president after Yanukovych’s flight, condemned the assault as a “crime against the government of Ukraine.” He warned that any move by Russian troops off of their base in Crimea “will be considered a military aggression.”

“I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings,” he said.

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Experts described a delicate situation in which one sudden move could lead to wider conflict.

“The main concern at this point is that Kiev might decide to intervene by sending law enforcement people to restore constitutional order,” said Dmitry Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “That is something that would lead to confrontation and drag the Russians in.”

In a bid to shore up Ukraine’s fledgling administration, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund says it is “ready to respond” to Ukraine’s bid for financial assistance. The European Union is also considering emergency loans for a country that is the chief conduit of Russian natural gas to western Europe.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in the organization’s first official statement on Ukraine’s crisis that it is intense talks with its partners on “how best to help Ukraine at this critical moment in its history.” Ukraine’s finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion for this year and next to avoid default. Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, dropped to a new record low of 11.25 to the U.S. dollar, a sign of the country’s financial distress.

Western leaders lined up to support the new Ukrainian leadership, with the German and British leaders warning Russia not to interfere.

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“Every country should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Ukraine,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in London.

NATO defense ministers met in Brussels, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel emerged appealing for calm.

“These are difficult times,” he said, “but these are times for cool, wise leadership on Russia’s side and everyone’s side.”

Yet the prospect of the West luring Ukraine into NATO is the very nightmare that Russia is desperately trying to avoid. Trenin of the Carnegie Center said a Ukraine-NATO courtship “would really raise the alarm levels in Moscow.”

Yanukovych declared Thursday in a statement that he remains Ukraine’s legitimate president. He was reportedly to hold a news conference Friday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border. A respected Russian news organization said that the fugitive leader was staying at the Kremlin-run Barvikha retreat just outside Moscow, though spokesmen for Putin and for the department that runs the resort told The Associated Press that they had no information about Yanukovych’s whereabouts.

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“I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists,” Yanukovych’s statement read, according to Russian news agencies. Shortly after, the same three news agencies quoted an unnamed Russian official as saying that Yanukovych’s request had been granted.

Yanukovych fled after riot police attacked protesters in Kiev’s central square in clashes that killed more than 80 people, and European and Russian officials intervened. He has not been seen publicly since Saturday, when he said he remained the legitimately elected president – a position that has been backed by Russia. Legal experts say that his flight and the appointment of a new government make that stance moot.

On Thursday, the White House said Yanukovych “abdicated his responsibility” and welcomed the Ukrainian parliament’s efforts to stabilize the country.

The Russian Foreign Ministry voiced concern about the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and vowed to protect their interests. State-owned ITAR-Tass news agency quoted a statement read at a session of the ministry’s board on Thursday, saying that Russia “will have a firm and uncompromising response to violations of the rights of compatriots by foreign states.”

In Crimea’s capital, Maxim, a pro-Russian activist who refused to give his last name, said he and other activists had camped overnight outside the local parliament in Simferopol when 50-60 men wearing flak jackets and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers and sniper rifles took over the building.

“Our activists were sitting there all night calmly, building the barricades,” he said. “At 5 o’clock unknown men turned up and went to the building. They got into the courtyard and put everyone on the ground.

“They were asking who we were. When we said we stand for the Russian language and Russia, they said: ‘Don’t be afraid. We’re with you.’ Then they began to storm the building bringing down the doors,” he said. “They didn’t look like volunteers or amateurs; they were professionals. This was clearly a well-organized operation.”

“Who are they?” he added. “Nobody knows.”

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