Sunday, April 27, 2014

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Eastern Ukraine Slips Further Into Chaos - Violence Flares As A Mayor Is Shot!

April 27, 2014 - UKRAINE - The mayor of Ukraine's second largest city was fighting for his life on Monday after an assassination attempt in broad daylight and an eruption of street violence in Donetsk dragged the east of the country further into chaos.

Gennady Kernes, who has been mayor of the eastern city of Kharkiv since 2010, was out jogging when he was shot in the back at about midday local time.

The attempted murder came as pro-Russian militia seized police buildings in yet another town in the Donetsk region, consolidating their hold on a strategic highway around the town of Slavyansk.

Later in the evening pro-Russian protesters armed with bats attacked a pro-Ukrainian march in Donetsk, leaving at least five people hospitalised with head wounds.

Trouble started at 6.30pm local time (4.30pm UK) as over 1000 pro-Ukrainians gathered for a march in the centre of the industrial city in the early evening.

Police largely stood by as a mob of several hundred pro-Russian activists, some armed with metal bars and baseball bats, ambushed the march from behind shortly after it began, attacking both marchers and bystanding journalists.

After the clash, in which protesters from both sides were injured, the pro-Ukrainian marchers apparently fled, leaving a large pro-Russian crowd prowling the streets and forcing some riot police to lay their shields on the ground.

The violence capped another day of rising tensions that saw Mr Kernes hospitalised after a bullet punctured one lung and his liver, leaving him in a critical condition.

"He is currently on the operating table in a hospital emergency room. Doctors are fighting for his life," his office said in a statement on Monday afternoon.

Mr Kernes suffered a serious abdominal injury from a single shot, but was operated on successfully, it was later reported.

Mr Kernes is a member of former president Viktor Yanukovych's Party of the Regions, and was a vocal opponent of the pro-European protest movement that brought down Mr Yanukovych in February. He has since vacillated between support for the pro-Russian movement and backing the new government in Kiev.

Mikhail Dobkin, the Party of the Regions' presidential candidate and a former governor of Kharkiv region and close ally of Mr Kernes, said on Monday that he believed the gunman had been aiming to kill.

"I can say this shot was aimed to kill, to the heart," he told Interfax Ukraine. "And I can say it was only due to a happy coincidence that he was not killed." Oleksandr Turchynov, the interim president, ordered an investigation into the attempted killing.

Ukrainian police and sniffer dogs examine the place where Gennady Kernes was shot and wounded in Kharkiv
 Photo: Sophiya Bobok/ Getty

Kharkiv is a major industrial and university city just 20 miles from the Russian border, and has been seen as a potential flashpoint in the on-going struggle for control of eastern Ukraine between pro-Russian rebels and the interim government in Kiev.

But while the city has seen pro-Russian disturbances in recent weeks, separatist activists have failed to establish a foothold there similar to those in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Pro-Russian demonstrators briefly occupied the regional administration building in the city centre earlier this month, but were swiftly evicted by police.

The attack on Mr Kernes came as rebels based in Slavyansk, 100 miles to the south, seized control of yet another town on the highway to the regional capital of Donetsk.

About 20 heavily armed gunmen took over the police station and town hall in Konstantinovka on Monday morning before unarmed volunteers began to build barricades around the occupied buildings, in an attack which closely followed the pattern of earlier occupations in neighbouring towns.

The pro-Russian rebels who seized the state buildings said they met with no resistance from local law enforcement officials. "We took it without a single shot being fired, we have the popular support," said Hans, a balaclava-clad gunman who also claimed the police had defected to "join with the people".

A reported firefight at the government-held airfield near Kramatorsk also ended without any deaths.

Eyewitnesses said soldiers returned fire when the base came under attack from its Western side at about 8 AM this morning.

Ukrainian troops were on high alert at the strategically important site on Monday afternoon, with snipers moving through the trees outside the perimeter threatening to shoot anyone who attempted to approach.

But there seemed to be little enthusiasm amongst the troops for engaging in combat. "We shot back because we were commanded to do so," said Roman, a 27-year-old soldier from Kiev stationed inside the base, "but we don't want to fire on our own people, we just want to go home."

Tensions in the area around Slavyansk are high since Mr Tuychynov re-launched an "anti-terrorist" operation to dislodge rebels late last week.

But Ukrainian forces have made no further move towards the city since skirmishes on Friday left up to five people dead.

The Ukraine Security Service said on Monday that pro-Russian separatists were now holding more than 40 hostages, most of them jailed in Slavyansk.

The prisoners include journalists, Ukrainian security officers, and seven European military officers and a translator who were part of an OSCE observer mission when they were detained as they tried to enter Slavyansk on Friday.

Rebel leaders have said they will seek a prisoner exchange for the release of the observers. - Telegraph.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: New Americans Turn To Goats To Address Food Demand!

April 27, 2014 - UNITED STATES -  A bunch of kids in a minivan are solving twin challenges in northern Vermont: refugees struggling to find the food of their homelands and farmers looking to offload unwanted livestock.

The half dozen kids - that is, baby goats - that arrived last week at Pine Island Farm were the latest additions to the Vermont Goat Collaborative, a project that brings together new Americans hungry for goat meat with dairy goat farmers who have no need for young male animals. Some dairy farmers who otherwise would discard bucklings at birth or spend valuable time finding homes for them now can send them to Colchester, where they will be raised and sold to refugees, some of whom have spent full days traveling to Boston or New Hampshire for fresh goat, or have settled for imported frozen meat.

When community organizer Karen Freudenberger realized that the roughly 6,000 new Americans from southeast Asia, Africa and elsewhere living in the Burlington area were buying what amounted to 3,000 goats a year from Australia and New Zealand, she saw an opportunity. Since some of them had been farmers raising goats in their native countries, why couldn't they do it in Vermont, prized for its working landscape and locally raised foods?

"People keep saying, are you sure you can sell all those goats? We are sure we can sell all those goats," said Freudenberger, who helped launch the project.

Now in its second year, the collaborative includes two families from Bhutan and Rwanda who are raising about 200 baby goats that will be slaughtered on site and sold in the fall.

While there are no federal statistics on goat meat consumption, the USDA says demand for it is increasing, driven in part by a growth in ethnic populations. The U.S. had 2.3 million head of meat goats in January 2013, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, with Texas producing the most, followed by Tennessee.

Some of the refugees Freudenberger has worked with had trouble communicating with farmers when trying to buy fresh goat meat, while others were questioned by authorities for slaughtering an animal by the side of the road or for having a goat in a car. They are looking forward to being able to select, buy and slaughter their goats in a matter of hours instead of making the long, expensive trip to Boston, said goat farmer Chuda Dhaurali.

"It's very helpful," he said. "They are so excited."

"The whole project is really designed around trying to meet this particular niche demand that this community has ... in a way that meets the particular cultural and taste desires of their communities," Freudenberger said.

The project is a collaboration between the Vermont Land Trust, which is giving the farmers access to the farm property on the Winooski River, and the Association of Africans Living in Vermont, now called AALV. The idea is that the land will be transferred to a cooperative entity representing the new American population and that group will take over the costs of the land - such as the insurance and taxes, Freudenberger said.

A grant of about $20,000 from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters helped to get Dhaurali started last year with electric fencing, feed and other supplies. Another Vermont Working Lands grant of more than $10,000 helped create the custom slaughter facility. The project subsidizes the farmer for the first year, but when they sell the goats in the fall, it allows them to finance future years.

Last year the project sold about 100 goats to families from more than 15 nationalities. Often, whole families including grandparents visit the farm to pick out the goat. Goat buyers can slaughter the animals on site the way they are accustomed to.

"It's more than just the meat - the nutritional side of it. It's also very cultural in terms of the way that people are wanting to participate in the whole process," Freudenberger said.

And Dhaurali, who is from Bhutan and spent 18 years as a refugee in Nepal, said many of the older members of Vermont's Nepalese community don't care for the taste of chicken, beef or pork.

The Vermont Goat Collaborative could grow to about 400 goats, with three families sharing the barn and pasture. That's far from meeting the demand, but that's not the idea. The project is designed to be a model that could be transferred to other farms and states. It already has sparked interest in Maine, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

"The idea is not to get our farm huge so that we can send our goats all over the country, but it's to get a working a model that then can be transferred and tweaked given people's particular situations to make it work," Freudenberger said. - MYFOXDC.

RATTLE & HUM: "It Was A Loud Boom" - New Hampshire Residents Say Loud Noise Sounded Like Sonic Boom?!

April 27, 2014 - MASSACHUSETTS, UNITED STATES -  Something rattled houses in the Keene area Wednesday, and despite official reports to the contrary, many residents are convinced it was a sonic boom.

Residents reported a loud noise about 2:15 p.m., with many saying it shook their homes and rattled windows.

"It was a loud boom," said Swanzey resident Jim Vitous. "It shook the whole house."

Vitous had just put his twins down for a nap, but they didn't stay asleep for long. A rushing noise lasting two or three seconds got their attention, Vitous said.

"I thought a propane tank blew up or something hit the house, a truck hit the house or something," he said. "But then after that, we figured something that loud that was heard all over was a sonic boom."

But the Massachusetts Air National Guard said that wasn't not the case. Officials said jets from the Massachusetts Air National Guard were in the area training, but they said they didn't break supersonic speeds.

"Air traffic control officials confirmed via their tracking systems that the sound barrier was not broken by our jets," the National Guard said in a written statement. "Additionally, the pilots reviewed their on-board recording systems to verify that their speeds were subsonic."

The Massachusetts National Guard said the noise was simply the sounds of jet engines.

The New Hampshire National Guard said that Massachusetts pilots have flown supersonic before, including in February 2013 when a pilot training with the 104th Air Wing broke the sound barrier, causing a sonic boom.

FAA regulations say it's illegal to do that over highly populated areas, such as Keene.

"Everyone was a little startled and on alert wondering what it was," said Wade Newer of Keene State College.

Newer said it seems that almost everyone at the college felt it.

"I grew up in southern California in the '60s and heard sonic booms before, and it definitely could have been something like that," Newer said.

Whatever it was, it seems to involve the National Guard's training.

"It was disturbing," Vitous said. "Something like that, we should be alerted to. We have kids at school and kids at home, and it really put us on notice."

The New Hampshire National Guard said that as a courtesy, Massachusetts usually notifies it if it's doing any maneuvers in New Hampshire, but that didn't happen Wednesday. The New Hampshire Guard said that if Massachusetts had, it would have been able to contact local authorities and let them know what was going on. - WMUR.