One day in October, a dozen armed men in masks drove up to the gates of Yalta Film Studios. They weren't actors, and this was no make-believe. It was a hostile takeover. "They forced all the employees onto the ground, sealed off the premises and halted the work of the studio," said owner Sergei Arshinov. The studio, nestled in the hills overlooking the Black Sea, is just one of thousands of businesses seized from their owners since Crimea was annexed by Russia eight months ago. Crimea's new pro-Moscow leaders say the takeovers, which they call nationalizations, are indispensable to reverse years of wholesale plunder by Ukrainian politicians and oligarchs.
For all the anger among progressives about a Wall Street bailout provision that made its way into the just-passed $1.1 trillion government spending bill, there's been little attention on the person who put it in there. Meet Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas). Yoder, a second-term congressman whose largest contributors are in the finance industry, introduced the provision last summer. It was literally written by Citigroup executives, but Yoder took their language and rolled it into an amendment to a spending bill in a House subcommittee meeting. It got swept into the year-end spending package because it "was within the scope of negotiations" on it, according to an Appropriations Committee aide. read more
Republican Sen. John McCain broke with members of his party Tuesday, lauding the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture and decrying the use of torture as having "stained our national honor" and doing "much harm and little practical good." McCain, a survivor of torture himself from his naval service during the Vietnam War, said from the Senate floor that the techniques outlined in the report "not only failed their purpose -- to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies -- but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world."
Daniel R. DePetris: Sen. John McCain, the most persistent critic (and undoubtably the loudest one) of Obama's foreign and national security policy, is on a mission to make sure that the 114th Congress is the administration's worst nightmare in the Washington area. According to John T. Bennett of Defense News, McCain is working behind the scenes to assemble a team in the Senate that will serve as a kind of "shadow government" to the Obama White House on matters pertaining to national security. The purpose, McCain says, is to hold the administration accountable on the decisions that it has made and provide a set of foreign policy alternatives that he hopes will push President Obama towards a more hawkish direction during his last two years.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has resigned, the Pentagon confirmed on Monday, closing out a relatively brief, mostly low-profile tenure at the Defense Department. Hagel's departure was "a mutual decision," a senior defense official said, reached after "several weeks" of discussions about the outlook for the remainder of the administration.