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Lavish gifts were among a treasure trove of keepsakes bestowed upon U.S. leaders


Foreign diplomacy doesn’t always resolve world-class problems, but it sure does rake in the swag.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was given a half-million bucks worth of diamond and ruby jewelry by Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and received $58,000 worth of bling from Brunei.

The lavish gifts were among a treasure trove of keepsakes bestowed upon U.S. leaders in 2012, the State Department disclosed Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin gave Clinton a $560 bottle of cognac, while President Obama received an autographed basketball from Chinese President Xi Jiping and a 41-inch saber from Mongolia.

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Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz gave Hillary Clinton a half-million worth of diamond and ruby jewelry.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden got a bare-breasted female bust from Liberia.

The Constitution prohibits U.S. government employees from keeping presents worth more than $350. But officials at the U.S. General Services Administration said the gifts were accepted to avoid awkward moments.

The GSA said some of the presents were donated and others were sold to the public.

US military instructors deployed to Ukraine to train local forces

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Paratroopers of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade, based in Vincenza, Italy, have arrived in western Ukraine to provide training for Ukrainian government troops.

The announcement came on US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt’s twitter account. The diplomat posted pictures of the US paratroopers marching through the airport in the western Ukrainian city of Lvov.

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Pyatt has not given the exact number of the servicemen deployed in Ukraine, but according to a Facebook post by Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, there should be some 290 US paratroopers. Avakov said that, under an agreement with the US State Department, long-term joint drills of US paratroopers and combat units of the Ukrainian National Guard, as well as training will take place at Yavorivky.

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The joint drills were agreed by Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and US Vice-President Joe Biden early in spring. The US paratroopers’ training will last for 24 weeks and involve some 900 servicemen, from several Ukrainian National Guard units.

In March, the UK started its training mission in Ukraine. It was planned that up to 75 troops at a time would be engaged in a six-month-long mission, training Kiev’s military “to strengthen the defensive capability of the Ukrainian armed forces and build the resilience that they need.”

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UK troops start training Ukraine’s army, US confirms own mission

Russia has expressed its concerns over the military training of Ukrainian forces, saying such actions do not support conflict settlement in the east of the country.

“The presence of foreign instructors in Ukraine, where an internal conflict remains unresolved in southeast and where problems arise with the implementation of the Minsk peace agreement, does not help in settling the conflict and producing an environment beneficial for it. On the contrary, it destabilizes the situations,” said Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.

Kiev and rebel forces signed a ceasefire deal in February, which involves the pullout of heavy weapons and a profound reform, which would address the grievances of the dissenting regions and reintegrate them into Ukraine. The deal has more or less held so far, with the level of violence in eastern Ukraine dropping significantly, OSCE monitors on the ground have reported.

READ MORE: US govt issues logistics support tender for 300 military personnel in Ukraine

But there is a high level of mistrust remaining among the rebels toward Kiev. The Ukrainian authorities don’t appear to be willing to resume social payments in the areas they don’t control, a measure specified in the ceasefire agreement.

Instead, they are investing heavily into rearming and training of the Ukrainian Army and National Guard. Combined with belligerent rhetoric dominating the political discourse in Ukraine, there is rising fear that Kiev plans a new offensive, instead of sticking to the peace plan.

​Greece demands €278bn WWII reparations from Germany – more than its debt to EU

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Germany owes Greece no less than €278.7 billion in World War II reparations, Athens said, referring to the destruction wrought upon the nation during the Nazi occupation. The sum exceeds Greece’s total debt of €240 billion to the EU.

“According to our calculations, the debt linked to German reparations is €278.7 billion euros, including €10.3 billion for the so-called forced loan. All the other amounts are related to allowances for individuals or infrastructure,” said the country’s deputy finance minister, Dimitris Mardas.

The figure was calculated by a parliamentary committee and the Greek supreme court. The numbers have previously varied between €269 billion and €332 billion.

Mardas added that at the 1946 Paris Conference the amount of reparations was set at $341.2 billion.

READ MORE: €25 million: Greek Jews seek reparations from Germany over Nazi deportations

In response, Gabriel Sigmar, Germany’s economy minister and vice chancellor, described Greece’s demand as “stupid.” He said he suspected the demand was just the country’s attempt to squeeze some money from Eurozone countries to resolve its own debt crisis problems. “And this leeway has absolutely nothing to do with World War II or reparation payments,” he said.

Many Greeks blame Germany, as the country’s biggest creditor, for the tough austerity measures and record high unemployment it faced after getting two international bailouts total worth 240 billion euros.

The Greece’s statement comes ahead of left-wing Greek PM Alexis Tsipras’s visit to Moscow and meeting with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. The newly elected PM is planning to boost cooperation and strengthen ties with Greece’s eastern neighbor.

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Greece to turn to Russia for economic help – media

Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed on Tuesday that finance and loans would be discussed at the Moscow talks.

Kommersant newspaper reported a source in Russian government as saying that the Greek PM is also seeking credit from Russia. Other media reports claim that Tsipras plans to negotiate a possible reduction in gas prices from Russia and the lifting of the embargo on certain types of Greek products

Greek lawmakers voted Tuesday to favour of establishing a special committee to examine the circumstances which led the country to enormous bailouts from troika of international creditors – the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission (EC).

“After five years of parliamentary silence on the major issues that caused the bailout catastrophe, today we commence a procedure that will give answers to the questions concerning the Greek people,” Tsipras said.

The issue of war reparations dating from the 1941-44 Nazi occupation of Greece is likely to increase already heightened tensions between Athens and Berlin. The two countries are already squabbling over Greek demands to renegotiate the terms of a €240 billion ($260 billion) Troika bailout.

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Payback time? Greek PM seeks reparations over Nazi occupation & war-time loan

The movement in Greece to get Berlin to pay up has become stronger over the last few years as Athens experiences financial hardships following austerity measures, which were a prerequisite of being given the bailout money, to stop the country from falling into financial ruin.

The left-wing Syriza government has decided to raise the issue of war reparations again with Berlin.

READ MORE: Greece threatens to seize German property, Berlin refuses to pay WWII reparations

“Germany has never properly paid reparations for the damage done to Greece by the Nazi occupation,” Prime Minister Tsipras, the leader of the anti-austerity Syriza party, said in March. “The crimes carried out by the Nazis are still vivid, and we have a moral obligation to remember what the forces did to the country.”

Berlin has flatly denied it owes Athens any more money, saying it already paid Greece war damages of $25 million in the 1950s, equivalent to $220 million today, and also paid out 115 million Deutschmarks (a sum worth around $230 million today), to victims of Nazi crimes in the early 1960s.

A 2012 report by the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, estimated the value of the loan at $8.25 billion (€7.57 billion). Greece, however, puts the value of the loan at €11 billion, the To Vima newspaper reported in January, citing confidential financial documents.

Greece says it always considered that money as only an initial payment and expected the rest of the money to be paid back following German reunification.

After Nazi forces took control of Greece in 1941, the stage was set for one of the bloodiest confrontations of World War II as Greek resistance fighters put up a fierce struggle to end the occupation.They were powerless, however, to prevent the Third Reich from extracting an interest-free 476 million Reichsmarks loan from the Greek central bank, which devastated the Greek economy.

‘Greece can never pay its debt’ – Jim Rogers

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With Greece said to be seeking financial help from Moscow, the country would still “never ever” be able to pay off its debt to the IMF, American businessman and investor Jim Rogers told RT, adding that Athens is only trying to delay it.

Greek’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who will be in Moscow this week to meet Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, “is desperate for money – and Russia is a wonderful place to get money and play politics,” Rogers said.

The prime minister has been widely criticized for his upcoming Russian visit by the Western mainstream media, being blamed for “flirting with Moscow” ahead of its promised $450 million tranche to the IMF, which Greece has said it will pay on Thursday as part of its €324-billion ($354 billion) debt.

Greece can never pay its debt! Never ever! It’s physically impossible,” Rogers said in an interview with RT’s ‘In the Now’ host Anissa Naouai. “But they can try to delay it,” he added, saying that’s what Wednesday’s Moscow visit is all about. Tsipras will try “to delay it as long as they can and then maybe they can get away with it for a while.”

Read more

Greece offers 5 key points for consensus with intl creditors

Meanwhile, Greece is trying to “show a good face,” the investor said, explaining that if the country manages to pay off at least some money – or shows efforts to do so, it could stay afloat.

At the same time, Russia is a perfect place for Greece’s recently-elected government to “play politics,” Rogers explained, saying that “it’s the perfect ploy to play Russia off against the EU and against the West because of what’s going on in Ukraine.”

READ MORE: Economic war against Russia ‘dead-end policy’ – Greek PM

If that plan fails, Greece might turn to China looking for the money it needs, Roger’s told RT, saying that “China’s got more money than anybody… than all of us put together.” With such China-led financial projects as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the country could soon break the dollar’s domination, Rogers said: “This is terrible for America, it’s great for the rest of the world. We need something to compete with the USD.”

Surprising Numbers of Americans Feel that Obama is a MORE Imminent Threat than Putin

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Republicans are now more concerned with the damage being dine by President Obama’s policies than they are with threats from international leaders like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Shouldn’t this situation be a little, I don’t know, REVERSED? This is beyond normal comprehension to live in a country where I actually am FEARFUL of my leader. BizPac reports:

That’s according to a poll was conducted by Reuters-Ipsos online and questioned 2,809 Americans on threats facing the nation and asked them to rate them on a scale of 1 – 5 with one being no threat and 5 being imminent.

According to the poll Republicans had Obama in the top spot with 34 percent, Putin second at 25 percent and Assad third with 23 percent.

Reuters spoke to sociologist Barry Glassner, author of “The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are afraid of the wrong things.”

“There tends to be a lot of demonizing of the person who is in the office,” he said.

He said “fear mongering” would be a tactic employed by both parties in the 2016 presidential campaign.

“The TV media here, and American politics, very much trade on fears,” Glassner added.

Other poll results showed when it comes to terror attacks Americans are most concerned with the Islamic State, Al Qaeda came in second followed by North Korea and Iran.

Democrats were slightly more concerned than Republicans with climate change.

A similar poll was conducted in 2002 by The Wisdom Fund on who was the biggest threat to “Justice and Peace”.

Wow. Obama. I guess your intimidation tactics of ruining America, one brick at a time, have worked. Your illegal executive orders and horrible immigration policies have taken it’s toll. You are the most feared man in America. Can you stop destroying her now?