Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Observes One Year Anniversary of Bombing

One year ago, the Boston Marathon was marred by a terrorist attack committed by two brothers. Today, all of Boston commemorates the bravery of its heroes and remembers the tragedy of its victims.

Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick issued statements on the anniversary of the attacks. Menino told an audience, "When the lights are dim and cameras go away, know our support for you will never waver."

President Obama observed the anniversary with a moment of silence at the White House.

The attacks were committed by two ethnic Chechens, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who came to the United States after living in Kyrgyzstan and Dagestan, a federal republic of Russia. The attacks were committed because of US actions in Muslim countries, according to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is currently awaiting trial.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Bitcoins Hit Snag Amid Mt. Gox Failing

Mt. Gox's bankruptcy filing is a major blow to the Bitcoin
Credit: AP
Mt. Gox, formerly one of the major exchanges for the virtual cryptocurrency Bitcoin, filed for bankruptcy protection Friday. The Tokyo-based exchange said that 850,000 of the Bitcoins are unaccounted for.

Mark Karpeles, the CEO of Mt. Gox, said that a weak point in the exchange's systems was responsible for the loss of Bitcoins, 750,000 of which belonged to users and another 100,000 which belonged to the exchange itself.

It is still not known whether the Bitcoins were stolen or voided by technological errors.

Mt. Gox's demise is a major setback for Bitcoin and its proponents, which tout the currency as safe and secure. Even with this latest setback, the movement for Bitcoin is still growing, with a growing number of ATMs and retailers accepting the currency.

One Bitcoin today is worth about $500, down from $1200 per Bitcoin in December.

US Believes Russian Troops Are in Ukraine

Troops blocking the road in Sevastopol
The AFP is reporting that a senior US administration official has said "several hundred" Russian troops have moved into the Crimean Peninsula. No armed clashes between Russian and Ukrainian troops have been reported.

CNN is reporting that the chair of the House Intelligence Committee Representative Mike Rogers (R-MI) has released a statement saying that Russia controls the Crimean Peninsula.

This situation is eerily similar to the Russian invasion of Georgia four years ago, in which Russian troops launched an military operation into the country. That war resulted in two new unrecognized states being carved out of Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both states are widely seen to be near-puppet states of Russia.

Read our previous story on the pro-Russian separatist movement in Crimea here.

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Vetoes Controversial Law

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a law that would have
allowed business owners to deny service to a person if
it violated their religious beliefs. The law was called
"anti-gay" by its opponents and a "religious rights" bill
by its supporters.
Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, a law that would have allowed business owners in the state to deny services to anyone if they felt it violated their religious beliefs. The law was widely considered to be in response to lawsuits brought by gays and lesbians who were denied service in other states by religious business owners.

Brewer was under intense pressure to veto the law, with both Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) calling on her to veto the law. Other businesses came out in opposition to the bill, and the Superbowl committee was considering withdrawing the Superbowl from the state if the law were signed.

Brewer's decision received mostly positive response, even from members from her own party, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who said immediately following Brewers' press conference about the law's veto that Brewer "did the right thing" on "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren" on Fox News.

The law passed with overwhelming Republican support in both chambers of the Arizona legislature.

Other states are considering legislation similar to the one passed by the Arizona legislature.

Leader of Sinaloa Drug Cartel Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Arrested in Mazatlán

Joaquin Guzman was arrested in a joint Mexican-American
operation in Mazatlán in the Mexican state of Sinaloa
The leader of Sinaloa Drug Cartel, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, was arrested in Mazatlán, Mexico on Saturday, February 22 at a hotel. Guzman, whose nickname means "shorty," led the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful of Mexico's numerous drug cartels. Guzman's drug empire from Mexico into the United States to Europe and Australia. The Sinaloa Cartel has been known for its vicious fights against its main rival, the Zetas Cartel.

Guzman has long been one of the most wanted men in the world, ranking with the likes of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Guzman was arrested in 2001 but managed to escape from prison.

Guzman is currently facing charges in Mexico and the United States for crimes related to his drug syndicate.

Guzman will first be tried in Mexico before he can be extradited to the United States to stand trial.

Guzman's capture is not likely to significantly impede the violence of Mexico's drug war; however, it is a blow to the morale of the Sinaloa Cartel, and it brings a sense of justice for those harmed by his criminal dealings.

Sochi Olympics Conclude Without Major Terror Activity

Sochi Medal Count
Source: Wikipedia

The 2014 Winter Olympic Games concluded on Sunday without any major terrorist activity in the region. Terrorists, primarily from Chechnya and Dagestan, had threatened to attack the Olympic games.

Russia led the total medal count with 33 medals, with the United States in second place with 28. Russia led the gold medal count with 13. Norway and Canada followed with 11 and 10 medals respectively.

 Even with Russian success on the field, the games were still filled with controversy. The Olympics were opposed by the Circassians, an ethnic group forced out 150 years ago in a war many consider as a genocide.  The substandard hotel rooms in the city were also a source of consternation. In addition, the primarily- American international condemnation of Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law also led to criticism of the Olympics.

Even with the criticism, Russian President Vladimir Putin is considered to have accomplished what he set out to do when he fought for the Olympics in 2007: showcase Russia as a modern state that has left its Soviet stagnation behind.


Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych Surfaces Following Ouster

Yanukovych (L) and Tymoshenko (R)
The pro-Russian leader of the eastern European nation of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych was removed by that nation’s parliament on Saturday,  February 22 amid large-scale protests that have resulted in the deaths of dozens of protesters. Most of the protests took place in Kiev, the nation’s capital.

                The protests themselves were sparked by Yanukoych’s efforts to more closely align Ukraine with Russia. Many of the protesters supported a stronger alliance with the European Union. However, Ukrainians are by no means united, with much of the western part supporting pro-European Union policies, and much of the eastern part supporting pro-Russian policies.

Yanukovych surfaced in Russia on Friday, saying that he was still the legitimate president of Ukraine.

Opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from prison on Saturday, February 22. Tymoshenko’s imprisonment in 2011 was widely seen as political revenge. In 2011, Tymoshenko was convicted of embezzlement and abuse of power, which were related to an order given to a Ukrainian firm to sign an agreement with Russia on a gas deal.

With the country divided so strongly, Tymoshenko is not universally admired in the country. Ukraine is expected to remain in a tense situation for a while as the new government, headed by a Tymoshenko ally, works to stabilize the nation.