MOSCOW WORRIED BY NATO BUILDUP
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow was concerned by the “unprecedented” increase in U.S. and NATO activity along the Russian border and urged U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel to help “turn down the rhetoric” over the ongoing Ukrainian crisis, Reuters reports. This comes after U.S. troops were deployed in the Baltics accompanied by eight fighter jets from Britain and France, which UK Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said were intended to “provide reassurance to our NATO allies in eastern Europe and the Baltic states.” During his phone conversation with Chuck Hagel, Shoigu also assured Washington that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine, despite mounting tensions in the eastern part of the country.
The European Union added 15 names of Ukrainian and Russian individuals, including Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak, to its sanction list, following in the footsteps of the U.S., which targeted seven new individuals and 17 Russian companies. According to the BBC, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov denounced the measures as “Iron Curtain”-style, which could harm the country’s high-tech sector. But analysts quoted by USA Today warned that the sanctions did not go far enough and could reinforce “Putin’s view he’s the one with the leverage.” Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts told Russian news agency Ria Novosti that “the sanctions are nothing but gratuitous propaganda” that would eventually benefit Russia.
Eight people were arrested after violent clashes between pro-Kiev and pro-Russian protesters yesterday in Donetsk, Interfax reports. But the picture of yesterday’s fights is unclear, with Western media reporting that peaceful pro-government demonstrators were attacked by pro-Russian separatists, while Russian media claim that the march was an anti-fascist rally attacked by Ukrainian nationalists. Some, like The Guardian and The Nation correspondent Alec Luhn seemed to suggest that the truth was somewhat in between.
U.S. TORNADOES KILL AT LEAST 13 MORE
Powerful tornadoes in the U.S. claimed 13 more lives in Alabama and Mississippi on Monday, one day after killing 17 people in Arkansas, Iowa and Oklahoma, USA Today reports. According to CNN, 75 million Americans are under threat of severe weather today with one-third of the country “advised to keep their eyes to the sky and their ears to the radio.”
“This is Mockingbird for a new generation,” author Harper Lee said of finally agreeing to an electronic version of her masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird being released. “I’m still old-fashioned. I love dusty old books and libraries.”
DEADLY MORTAR ATTACK IN DAMASCUS
At least 12 people were killed and 50 injured after mortar shells fired by rebel fighters, branded as terrorists by state media, hit the Syrian capital of Damascus, Sana reports. It is unclear who is among the victims, but a source from the local police told the news agency that two of the four mortars had hit a school complex. This morning, The Guardian was among the many Arab and British newspapers to publish a letter from 35 legal experts urging the United Nations to provide aid to the 9.3 million people “in urgent need of humanitarian assistance,” despite lack of consent from the Syrian government.
As Alexandra Borchardt writes in Süddeutsche Zeitung, so-called “gamification” is increasingly being used by companies to solve problems and create a happier workforce. “The companies are using natural human playfulness as a motivation factor,” the journalist quotes one gamification project leader as saying. “People not only enjoy working things out, but they also love a challenge and competition.”
Read the full article, Office Gamification: Computer Games At The Heart Of New Ways To Work.
NORTH KOREA LAUNCHES NEW LIVE-FIRE DRILL
North Korea began a live-fire drill near the disputed islands on the border with South Korea, just one month after it conducted a similar exercise, Xinhua reports. A spokesman for Seoul’s Defense Ministry said the South Korean military were ready to fire back if shells should fall on its territorial waters. Inhabitants of the five islands were evacuated after Seoul received a notification just hours in advance from Pyongyang. As the BBC explains, this comes amid increasing fears in South Korea that the North is preparing for a nuclear test.
As President Barack Obama arrived Monday for a two-day state visit, Filipino activists ripped apart a U.S. flag near the American Embassy in Manila in a protest against American military presence in the country.
FAMILIES OF FERRY VICTIMS GET APOLOGY
South Korea President Park Geun-hye has apologized for the sinking of the ferry that was transporting 476 people two weeks ago. “I don’t know how to apologize for the failure to prevent the accident and for the insufficient way it was handled, including the initial response,” Yonhap news agency quoted her as saying. Meanwhile, the death toll reached 203 as search teams continue to look for the 99 people still missing, but their efforts remain hampered by poor weather conditions.
46 HOURS, 39 MINUTES
A UK property investor broke the Guinness World Record for the longest speech ever. Read more about it here.
MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD
HARRY POTTER VS. LUKE SKYWALKER
If you’ve ever wondered who’d win in a fight between wizard Harry Potter and Jedi Luke Skywalker, you now have an answer, thanks to YouTube humorists RackaRacka expand=1]. Watch the ultimate battle here expand=1].