Ukraine diplomatic moves take on new urgency

UPDATE 2PM ET, MON: President Obama said he had not made a decision on sending arms to the Ukraine government, and would not until at least after this week’s scheduled meeting between European leaders and Russian President Putin in Minsk. At a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the President also weighed in on Iran nuclear talks and relations with Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu.

obamamerkel(image: MSNBC)

MIDNIGHT SUN: It will be a crucial week for peace efforts in Ukraine, as a flurry of diplomatic activity sees European leaders emerge from the weekend’s security conference in Munich with a planned meeting on Wednesday in Belarus between Germany’s Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande of France, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian leader Petro Poroshenko.

President Hollande called this round of diplomacy “one of the last chances” to avoid a wider war in the region.

Chancellor Merkel, meanwhile, is in Washington to meet President Obama on Monday amid a growing clamor among some in the US  for direct military support to the Ukrainian government, a step the European leaders oppose.

Ukrainian servicemen ride on a tank near Artemivsk (image: Reuters)

* WORLD * At least 40 people were reported killed in clashes between fans and police at a football stadium in Cairo. Egyptian authorities subsequently suspended the country’s football league matches indefinitely, even though the game, between Zamalek and ENPPI, went ahead.

An apparent suicide bombing in Baghdad killed 13 civilians at a security checkpoint, the latest in a series of violent attacks in the city, which this weekend lifted a decade-old nightly curfew.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will make his first state visit to the US later this year.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott survived a challenge to his leadership of the Liberal Party, describing the process as a “near-death” experience and vowing that “good government starts today.” Speculation will likely continue over his position, however, given the strength of opposition in the vote.

In a speech to the Greek parliament on Sunday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said his government would not seek to extend the nation’s bailout, and would implement its anti-austerity campaign pledges. Greece’s creditors – Eurozone finance ministers – will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss immediate next steps. Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan at the weekend predicted a Greek exit from the Euro.

Meanwhile, The Economist looks at the rise of Podemos, Spain’s equivalent to Greece’s Syriza party.

* POLITICS * In a controversial 11th-hour decision, as Alabama prepared to become the first southern state to recognize same-sex marriage, local judges were ordered by the state’s chief justice to ignore federal directives to issue marriage licenses. The move was immediately criticized by LGBT rights groups and could set up a showdown with federal courts.

Being unable to enact new gun control laws will be the “signal failure” of Attorney General Eric Holder’s time in office. Holder told MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry that “The gun lobby simply won, you know?”.

New York’s Working Families Party threw its support behind Sen Elizabeth Warren and formally urged her to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

With a potentially large field on the GOP side, it’s a boom time for experienced campaign staffers.

* MEDIA * Fallout continues from NBC anchor Brian Williams’ “misremembering” and his subsequent decision to step aside for “several days.” Ken Auletta writes:

..While the spotlight is on Williams’s transgressions, a word about the complicity of NBC and the other networks’ marketing machines. The networks have a stake in promoting their anchors as God-like figures. By showing them in war zones, with Obama or Putin, buffeted by hurricanes, and comforting victims, they are telling viewers that their anchors are truth-tellers who have been everywhere and seen everything and have experience you can trust.

On Sunday, Williams cancelled an appearance on David Letterman’s show set for this Thursday. Mike Allen at Politico writes that it is “a sign of deepening trouble.” David Carr at the NYT meanwhile, says “The perceptions of the weak, confused apology, and suspending himself for as long as he chooses, are not good for Mr. Williams or his employer. A full-throated, unmodulated apology is the only thing that will satisfy a public who placed their trust in him.”

Adnan Syed, the subject of the hugely successful true-crime podcast Serialwas granted the right to appeal his 2000 conviction.

Al Arab Television, based in Bahrain and owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, went off the air a day after it went live, after featuring an interview with a local opposition leader in its first broadcast. The station blamed “technical and administrative reasons.”

* BUSINESS * The Guardian is part of a group of media outlets including Le Monde, the BBC and CBS 60 Minutes, which on Monday published a series of leaked documents which they say show how HSBC, the world’s second-largest bank, “helped wealthy customers conceal billions of dollars of assets. It is being called the “biggest leak in banking history.”

guardian

(image: The Guardian/TomorrowsPapersToday) There will be more details in a Panorama special on Monday night, and the BBC’s live blog on the story is here.

India is set to post latest quarterly growth numbers – expected to be “robust” – on Monday, amid uncertainty over recent changes to how economic data is presented.

New York’s Baccarat became the most-highly valued hotel property in the US after a Chinese insurer agreed to buy it for more than $2m a room.

* CULTURE * It was the Baftas on Sunday night – Eddie Redmayne took home the best actor award for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Meanwhile, another Brit, singer Sam Smith, scored big at the Grammys.

At the annual MusiCares charity benefit on Friday, Person of the Year honoree Bob Dylan gave a remarkable career-spanning speech. The 30-minute speech, which subsequently went viral, acknowledged those figures who had helped him along the way and, pointedly, some of the people who hadn’t. It’s well worth a read, and begins:

I’m glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn’t get here by themselves. It’s been a long road and it’s taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, they’re like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they’re on the fringes now. And they sound like they’ve been on the hard ground.

 

* SPORTS * Ivory Coast won the African Cup of Nations final on Sunday, defeating Ghana in 9-8 in a penalty shoot-out, after a goalless draw. Reserve keeper Boubacar Barry scored the winning spot-kick to give Ivory Coast their first championship for 23 years, after having lost twice in the past nine.

What may be the only authenticated autographed photograph of baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson will be auctioned in New York on Feb 21.

Dean Smith, North Carolina’s iconic basketball coach, who retired with a remarkable record of achievement, including the most wins in Division I history, died Saturday night aged 83. There have been many tributes across the game, including from his greatest player, Michael Jordan, who called Smith “My mentor, my teacher, my second father.”

Here, Smith’s pastor talks about the coach’s work to bring about social change and in  integrating his team.

(YouTube/ACC Digital Network)

 

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