Russia’s deputy prime minister laughed off President Obama’s sanction against him today asking “Comrade @BarackObama” if “some prankster” came up with the list.
The Obama administration hit 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials with sanctions today as punishment for Russia’s support of Crimea’s referendum. Among them: aides to President Vladimir Putin, a top government official, senior lawmakers, Crimean officials, the ousted president of Ukraine, and a Ukrainian politician and businessman allegedly tied to violence against protesters in Kiev.
It remains to be seen whether the sanctions will dissuade Russia from annexing Crimea, but one an early clue that they will not be effective came just hours later when President Putin signed a decree recognizing Crimea as an independent state, perhaps an early step towards annexation.
U.S. official have warned of additional sanctions for Russian action, hoping it will deter Russia from any further aggression towards Ukraine, but it didn’t appear to upset the often outspoke Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.
The United States is planning to give up its last remaining authority over the technical management of the Internet.
The Commerce Department announced Friday that it will give the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an international nonprofit group, control over the database of names and addresses that allows computers around the world to connect to each other.
Administration officials say U.S. authority over the Internet address system was always intended to be temporary and that ultimate power should rest with the "global Internet community."
But some fear that the Obama administration is opening the door to an Internet takeover by Russia, China, or other countries that are eager to censor speech and limit the flow of ideas.
"If the Obama Administration gives away its oversight of the Internet, it will be gone forever," wrote Daniel Castro, a senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
Castro argued that the world "could be faced with a splintered Internet that would stifle innovation, commerce, and the free flow and diversity of ideas that are bedrock tenets of world's biggest economic engine."
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, called the announcement a "hostile step" against free speech.
"Giving up control of ICANN will allow countries like China and Russia that don't place the same value in freedom of speech to better define how the internet looks and operates," she said in a statement.
Critics warn that U.S. control of the domain system has been a check against the influence of authoritarian regimes over ICANN, and in turn the Internet.
China, Russia, Iran, and dozens of other countries are already pushing for more control over the Internet through the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations agency.
Sen. John Thune, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, said he will watch the process carefully, but that he trusts "the innovators and entrepreneurs more than the bureaucrats—whether they're in D.C. or Brussels."
The transition will reassure the global community that the U.S. is not trying to manipulate the Internet for its own economic or strategic advantage,according to Cameron Kerry, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and the former acting Commerce secretary.
Steve DelBianco, the executive director of NetChoice, a pro-business tech group, said the U.S. was bound to eventually give up its role overseeing Internet addresses. But he said lawmakers and the Obama administration will have to ensure that ICANN will still be held accountable before handing the group the keys to the address system in 2015.
DelBianco warned that without proper safeguards, Russian President Vladimir Putin or another authoritarian leader could pressure ICANN to shut down domains that host critical content.
"That kind of freedom of expression is something that the U.S. has carefully protected," DelBianco said in an interview. "Whatever replaces the leverage, let's design it carefully."
The European Union’s characterization of the Crimean vote to join Russia as “undemocratic” is laced with stunning hypocrisy given that the EU ignored its own citizens when they rejected the European Constitution on numerous occasions.
Following yesterday’s referendum in which people in the black sea peninsula voted 97% in favor of becoming part of the Russian federation, the EU responded by slapping sanctions on 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials, declaring the referendum to be “illegal”.
That’s standard operating procedure for the European Union, which habitually denigrates the will of its own people by ignoring popular votes and referendums if it doesn’t like the result.
When voters in both France and the Netherlands rejected the EU Constitution in 2005, instead of accepting the outcome, the European Union simply re-named the Constitution and re-introduced it as the Lisbon Treaty, forcing Europeans to vote once again.
Even when Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty in 2008, the EU simply changed the rules which mandated that the treaty could only be passed with a unanimous vote from all member states and passed it anyway, flying in the face of any notion of democracy.
In brazenly declaring that the EU would ignore referendums, Giscard d’Estaing even went on record to admit that the Lisbon Treaty “had been carefully crafted to confuse the public.”
By denouncing Crimea’s vote as undemocratic and illegal, the EU is displaying its usual brand of jaw-dropping hypocrisy. This is an institution that has repeatedly violated the democratic will of its own citizens by holding recurring referendums until Europeans simply gave in and accepted the result the bureaucratic parasites in Brussels were pushing for all along.
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