New Monday, New World: Russia Is In Charge

Well that was quite a first weekend. After Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday, an estimated two million people took to the streets worldwide to protest against the controversial new president, who continued his open warfare with the American press — and some would say, with the truth itself. Now, he faces a first work week at the Oval Office that promises to be no less hectic, as he starts rolling out his plan for his first 100 days, before welcoming British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.

But even for the man who promised to put "America first," the most important event of his first Monday in office, which could shape his whole presidency, is taking place halfway across the world, in the capital of Kazakhstan.

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At Former Soviet Nuclear Test Site, "Best Not To Take Souvenirs"

Hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in eastern Kazakhstan during the Soviet regime. Scientists are now conducting research on the site, which was shuttered 25 years ago, to evaluate how radiation affected the reg

THE POLYGON — At first, it's hard to tell where the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site begins as the scorched steppe stretches to the horizon. But turning onto a dusty road signals that we've reached the site, also known as the Polygon. Fallen telegraph poles lie on yellowed grass. You can see broken pillars and bridges torn in half. Concrete pillars mark the borders of the Polygon, which at 18,500 square kilometers is more than half the size of Belgium.

Inside the Polygon, strange four-story constructions, called gusaki, or "geese", loom like dark giants. They do resemble colossal birds, with their long, charred necks stretched toward the sky. They were built in the 1950s to house nuclear equipment and armored long-range cameras that were capable of filming explosions at seven frames per second.

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Trump v. Hillary?, Bin Laden Will, Livestream Eclipse


Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved closer to a presidential face-to-face, with each winning seven of the 11 states holding primaries on the so-called Super Tuesday. Trump took home Republican primary wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia, while Clinton won Democratic contests in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

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Aiding Ukraine, Two Cops Shot In Ferguson, Ancient Lobster

The United States will send more “non-lethal” military equipment to Ukrainian forces, including Humvees, drones and night-vision goggles, $75 million worth, a senior administration official said yesterday. Washington also extended its sanctions on Russia by adding a bank and eight Ukrainian rebels to the list of targets, Reuters reports. The decisions come after the West accused Russia of having violated the Minsk ceasefire agreement signed Feb. 12 and of sending forces and tanks across the border despite reports that the rebels had pulled their heavy weaponry from the front. The Kremlin has rejected the accusations.

  • The International Monetary Fund has approved a $17.5 billion loan to Ukraine that the authorities hope will help stabilize the country’s economy.
  • Uncertainty over the motive behind the murder of Russia opposition politician Boris Nemtsov continues. Speaking to the BBC, one of Nemtsov’s daughters said Putin was “politically” responsible.

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On March 12, 1945, Holocaust diarist Anne Frank died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Get your 57-second shot of history.

A group of 21 aid agencies is pointing the finger at the United Nations Security Council, saying that its failure to implement three resolutions seeking to boost humanitarian aid have contributed to 2014 being Syria’s worst year since the war erupted in early 2011. The report, entitled “Failing Syria,” also notes that just 57% of the money needed to support Syrian civilians and refugees was provided in 2014, down from 71% the previous year. Ongoing fighting and the rise of ISIS have made 2014 the conflict’s deadliest year so far, with an estimated 76,000 casualties. Another report shows that 83% of Syria’s lights visible from space have gone out since March 2011. Read more from the BBC.

China convicted and sentenced 712 people for terrorism, separatism and related crimes last year, the country's top court said, explaining that such offenses were its top priority for 2015 after the Xinjiang region’s recent surge in violence.

Photo above: NASA/Bill Ingals
The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft returned to Earth late Wednesday, landing near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, with Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Elena Serova of Roscosmos on board. The crew is back from their 167-day mission on the International Space Station.

Even as negotiations between the West and Iran over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program continue, Saudi Arabia, one of Iran’s arch enemies in the region and a known supporter of terrorism, has just quietly signed its own nuclear-cooperation agreement with South Korea, The Wall Street Journal reports. The deal is seen by some in the U.S. as a sign that a nuclear arms race may be starting in the Middle East.

As La Stampa’s Domenico Quirico reports, ISIS has thoroughly overtaken a Bosnian village that is but a one-hour plane flight from Vienna. “What the people have been deprived of here is not just a united country,” the journalist writes. “A year ago, people took to the streets, burning town halls and ministries, demonstrating their rage against chronic hunger and frustration about the country's paralysis and corruption. One year later, nothing has happened — civic committees have entirely disappeared or have been absorbed by political parties. In the small town of Gornja Maoca, the ISIS flag has been raised and the people live as if they were in lands conquered by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's men.”
Read the full article, In The Bosnian Village Seduced By ISIS.

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Suspected al-Shabaab fighters have launched an attack against a government building in the central Somali town of Baidoa, leaving at least seven people dead, according to AP. “They are Shabaab disguised in Somali military uniforms. That's how they managed to enter” the city’s fortified area which also contains a UN compound, a police official told AFP. Attacks from militants with the al-Qaeda-affiliated group have become more regular, and they often target government headquarters and Somali lawmakers. The humanitarian situation in areas controlled by the Islamist group are deteriorating fast as al-Shabab fighters have banned businesses from supplying food and medicine to the town of Buloburde.

“Mankind will remain a major geological force for many millennia, maybe millions of years to come,” unless volcanic activity or a meteor crushes human domination, geologists wrote in an analysis published in Nature. Read more from Bloomberg.

Two police officers were shot outside police headquarters in Ferguson, Missouri, overnight amid protests that came hours after the Police Chief Thomas Jackson’s resignation, USA Today reports. Jackson had been accused in a federal report of conducting racially biased policing. One of the police officers was shot in the face and left seriously wounded, and the other was hit in the shoulder.

Scientists have discovered a 480-million-year-old fossil of a lobster-like creature that they say “would have dwarfed anything else at the time.” The seven-foot-long prehistoric creature is an early ancestor of modern crustaceans, insects and spiders. Read more from The Verge.

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Iran's Deadline, Spacecraft Launches, Cairo Roller Derby

Monday, November 24, 2014

Last-minute talks in Vienna hold little hope that Iran will reach an agreement with world powers today, the deadline, about the country’s nuclear program and the lifting of economic sanctions. U.S. officials admitted yesterday that negotiations might be extended for a second time, The New York Times reports. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that all sides would make “one last push,” although he acknowledged that they were “still quite a long way apart, and there are some very tough and complex issues to deal with.” A source close to the negotiations told Reuters that they were expected to adjourn and resume in Oman next month.

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Richard Werly

Europe's Divorce With Russia's Gazprom: Will Central Asia Pay The Price?

ALMATY - The sharp rise in tensions between the European Commission and Russian oil giant Gazprom is worrying the central Asian nations of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, which are highly dependent on their gas and oil exports to the EU.

"The relationship between Europe and Russia, in regards to energy, is similar to that of a couple; if the two parties break up, everyone suffers. Producers go one way and clients the other," said former Kazakhstan Deputy Natural Resources Minister Pyotr Svoik, at a recent energy conference in Vilnius, Lithuania.

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Elena Chernenko

Can An Autocratic Nation Be A World Leader In Diplomacy?

ASTANA - Earlier this month, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev rolled out his new project for cooperation between the East and West -- and it lacked neither ambition nor a healthy supply of alphabet-soup acronyms .

A person close to President Nazarbayev’s administration said this was the most audacious of Kazakhstan’s recent foreign policy projects, unveiled at at a meeting of foreign ministers of member countries of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), an international group led by Kazakhstan.

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Elena Chernenko

Kazakhstan: New Election Reforms Just 'Democratic Gloss'

Analysis: The big winner of last week's elections in Kazakhstan was never in doubt - the president’s party Nur Otan. But due to a recent change in the law, for the first time the parliament is required to have at least one other party represented

Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev has been in power since 1991. In fact, he is the only president the country has every known. Though genuinely well-liked by many in the country, some see him as a benevolent dictator, at best - and perhaps less benevolent since the crackdown on demonstrating miners in December.

But when Nazarbayev decided, in 2010 to revise the election laws to ensure that parliament always had at least two parties, many Western observers took it as a signal of increasing democracy. In the Mazhilis, the lower house of the Kazakh parliament, there had always been just one political force: Nur Otan, Nazarbayev's party, which won a record 88% of the vote in the 2007 elections.

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Benjamin Quénelle

Oil Exploration: A Visit To ‘Island D,’ The Caspian Sea's Coming Black Gold Mine

Exploiting the oil reserves in the Caspian Sea has proven more difficult then expected. But after more than a decade of preparation, the Kashagan project – hailed as the largest oil project in the world – is finally inching its way towards completion.

KASHAGAN -- Umberto Carrara spreads his arms. "In front of you is the largest oil project in the world!" Bundled up in orange, the director of this vast construction site has just landed in his helicopter on Island D, the heart of this enormous deposit of black gold in Kashagan.

Located in the Caspian Sea, in Kazakhstan's territorial waters, seven companies, including France's Total, have been working together here to exploit the potential reserves of at least 10 billion barrels of oil. "On land, things are 97% ready, offshore, 94% ready. The first drops of oil will be extracted by the end of 2012," Umberto Carrara says enthusiastically.

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