Update: On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin harshly criticized Ukraine's new leadership, calling the crisis an "unconstitutional coup." He said that Russia is not planning to annex Crimea and he would leave it up to citizens in the region to determine their future. He did not take the option of using military force off the table and said it would be used as "a last resort."
Last month, the world's eyes turned to Russia to see if President Vladimir Putin could manage to get hotel showers ready in time for the Sochi Olympics. Just a few weeks later, Putin once again has the international community waiting in suspense, but for a very different reason. The world is waiting to find out if Russia will launch a full-scale armed assault on Ukraine. After months of anti-government protests in Ukraine—sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych's rejection of a European Union trade deal—the rubber-stamp Russian parliament authorized Putin to send military forces into Ukraine on March 1. The action is reportedly being undertaken to protect the Russian population in the Crimean Peninsula, where, conveniently, Russia also has strong economic and political interests.
As Putin shoots spitballs into the faces of Western leaders—who, remembering the Cold War, aren't expected to take much action in response to the crisis—Ukraine is mobilizing forces, preparing to take on a military that is far better equipped than its own. The Obama administration has declared that it is prepared to enact sanctions and come up with other consequences if Russia continues to move forward; European Union leaders are having an emergency summit Thursday. Here's what you need to know about the ongoing crisis, in 26 numbers:
Update: $1 billion:US loan guarantees that Secretary of State John Kerry has promised Ukraine's new government.
6,000: The number of Russian ground and naval forces that have entered the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, according to US officials. (On Monday, Ukrainian officials told the UN Security Council that the number was higher, reaching 16,000.)
500,000: The number of anti-government protesters who flooded Ukraine's capital, Kiev, in December to demand the ousting of Yanukovych. Anti-government protests have since been held in the cities of Dnepropetrovsk, Odessa, and Kharkiv, according to the Washington Post. Thousands of protesters marched in Moscow on Sunday in support of Russian incursion, and there have also allegedly been pro-Russia protests in many Ukrainian cities. (According to theNew York Times, some of these may be staged by Russian "protest tourists" and Kiev officials say that Moscow is behind pro-Russia demonstrations in Ukraine.)
13: The number of websites blocked by the Russian government because they had links to the Ukrainian anti-government protest movement. Russia's internet monitoring agency accused them of "encouraging terrorist activity."
24 percent: The percentage of people across Ukraine who report Russian as their native language. In Crimea, that number rises to about 60 percent. According to the Brookings Institution, most Ukrainians speak and understand both Ukrainian and Russian.
845,000: The number of total armed forces in Russia. Ukraine has 129,950 troops, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and the BBC, which notes that there is no chance of NATO assisting Ukraine militarily.
40: The age cap for men in Ukraine who have been called to defend the country as part of Ukraine's universal male conscription. According to Reuters, Ukraine will "struggle to find extra guns or uniforms for many of them." (Ukrainian women don't have the same obligation to serve.)
221: The number of combat aircraft owned by Ukraine, along with 17 combat vessels. Russia has 1,389 combat aircraft and 171 combat vessels, according to the BBCand IISS.
80 percent: The percentage of Russian gas exports to Europe that travel through Ukraine. Europe relies on Russia to supply 40 percent of its imported fuel. A regional expert told the New York Timesthat the primary gas pipelines passing through Ukraine supply Germany, Austria, and Italy. The global price of crude oil has risen 2 percent since the crisis began.
$60 billion: About the amount that Russian companies lost in a day after the Moscow stock market fell 10.8 percent on Monday, in wake of the crisis. The Central Bank of Russia has sold over $10 billion in US dollar reserves in order to revive the value of the Russian ruble.
37: The number of rubles needed to match the US dollar on Monday as the currency nose-dived in wake of the crisis.
8,500: The number of nuclear weapons that Russia has, according to a January 2014 report put out by the Ploughshares Fund. The United States has 7,700 nuclear weapons.
6: The number of Republican lawmakers who have criticized President Obama for how his administration has handled the crisis: Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)
0: US lawmakers who have suggested the United States send troops into Ukraine.
In 1999, as former First Lady Hillary Clinton was preparing to run for US Senator in New York, she was coached by Mandy Grunwald, a public relations consultant who also served as media adviser for Clinton's subsequent presidential campaign, before a speech. Back then, Grunwald had some words of wisdom for Clinton, who is now considered front runner for the Democrat's 2016 presidential nomination: "Be careful to be real." This is one of eight pieces of advice included in a July 1999 letter released today as part of a trove of documents from the Bill Clinton Administration.
Some of these tips could still be applicable for Clinton in 2016, if she chooses to run: "Don't assume anyone knows anything about you...New Yorkers generally know about healthcare, your work for children, and then a lot of tabloid junk." Here are the other tips:
Walt Disney has booted the Boy Scouts out of the Magic Kingdom, allegedly due to the national organization's discriminatory policies against gay members. Although the Boy Scouts began welcoming gay scouts in January, it dispels these members after they turn 18, banning them, as well as gay parents, from leading troops and packs. Florida-based Walt Disney World, the latest company to stop giving money to Boy Scouts in recent years, said that it cut off funding because the organization's "views" do not align with theirs, according to a letter sent from the Central Florida Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) to the state's scout leaders and parents.
"In losing this grant money...we may have to cut back on activities, delay replacing aging equipment, or reduce 'high-adventure' camping. Unless the families can make up the difference, we will have reduced experiences for the boys available," said a Florida pack and troop leader, who wished to remain anonymous because of potential retaliation from the local scouting community. "My kids are losing money solely based on National BSA's moral judgment against gay people. It's not what I believe or teach my kids. Discrimination is not what we practice as a local scout unit."
Walt Disney World did not provide financial support to the national BSA council, but it did give grants to local scouting troops through a program called, "Ears to You," in which employees do volunteer work, and, in return, the company gives money to a charity of the employee's choice. The Florida scout leader told Mother Jones that many members of the Florida scouting community participate in this program, and some units were receiving up to $6,000 per year.
According to the letter sent by the BSA Central Florida Council, the national leadership of BSA reached out to Walt Disney World to address the dropped funding, but the company said that their "views do not currently align with the BSA and they are choosing to discontinue this level of support." Walt Disney World did not respond to comment as to whether those views specifically refer to the Scouts' LGBT policy, and BSA spokesman Deron Smith declined to comment on the rationale. But Brad Hankins, a spokesman for Scouts for Equality, which advocates for equal LGBT rights, said the group believes it's over BSA's anti-gay policy: "Beyond the membership policies, what other views does the BSA hold that are controversial?" According to its Standards of Business Conduct, Disney World permits no discrimination based on "sex, sexual orientation [and] gender identification" among its employees.
Smith, the Boy Scouts spokesman, did confirm that Walt Disney World has suddenly stopped providing these grants. "We believe every child deserves the opportunity to be a part of the Scouting experience and we are disappointed in this decision because it will impact our ability to serve kids," he said. Many other companies have stopped funding BSA recently over its anti-gay policy, including Lockheed Martin and UPS.
According to Zach Wahls, an Eagle Scout raised by two lesbian mothers, and founder of Scouts for Equality, it's not the famous theme park that's hurting the scouts—it's the Boy Scouts' discriminatory policies. "We’re never happy to see scouting suffer as a result of the BSA’s anti-gay policy," he said, "but Disney made the right decision to withhold support until Scouting is fully inclusive." The Florida scout leader agrees: "Because of the national decision to deny leadership opportunities to gay adults, my kids and other local units near Disney are penalized. If I were the decision-maker at Disney, I think I would make the same decision."
Update, February 28, 2014:State representative Sam Teasley, the first sponsor listed on the bill, told Mother Jones that he has taken the controversial language out of the bill, so that it is now identical to the longstanding federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He wrote, "After introducing the bill, a number of citizens expressed concerns that the language could be construed in a way that might encourage discrimination. I do not believe that the bill as introduced does that. It was most certainly not my intent and frankly, as a man of faith, that would be inconsistent with what my faith teaches me. My faith teaches that all people, regardless of belief system, are to be treated with dignity and respect." The Senate version of the Georgia bill has reportedly been taken off of the calendar.
A bill moving swiftly through the Georgia House of Representatives would allow business owners who believe homosexuality is a sin to openly discriminate against gay Americans by denying them employment or banning them from restaurants and hotels.
The proposal, dubbed the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, would allow any individual or for-profit company to ignore Georgia laws—including anti-discrimination and civil rights laws—that "indirectly constrain" exercise of religion. Atlanta, for example, prohibits discrimination against LGBT residents seeking housing, employment, and public accommodations. But the state bill could trump Atlanta's protections.
The Georgia House bill's text is largely identical to controversial legislation that passed in Arizona last week. The Arizona measure—which is currently awaiting Republican Gov. Jan Brewer's signature—has drawn widespread protests from LGBT groups and local businesses. One lawmaker who voted for the Arizona bill, Sen. Steve Pierce (R-Prescott), went so far as to publicly change his mind.
Georgia and Arizona are only the latest states to push religious freedom bills that could nullify discrimination laws. The new legislation is part of a wave of state laws drafted in response to a New Mexico lawsuit in which a photographer was sued for refusing to work for a same-sex couple.
Unlike similar bills introduced in Kansas, Tennessee, and South Dakota, the Georgia and Arizona bills do not explicitly target same-sex couples. But that difference could make the impact of the Georgia and Arizona bills even broader. Legal experts, including Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, warn that Georgia and Arizona's religious-freedom bills are so sweeping that they open the door for discrimination against not only gay people, but other groups as well. The New Republic noted that under the Arizona bill, "a restaurateur could deny service to an out-of-wedlock mother, a cop could refuse to intervene in a domestic dispute if his religion allows for husbands beating their wives, and a hotel chain could refuse to rent rooms to Jews, Hindus, or Muslims."
"The government should not allow individuals or corporations to use religion as an excuse to discriminate [or] to deny other access to basic healthcare and safety precautions," Maggie Garrett, legislative director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, wrote in a letter to a Georgia House Judiciary subcommittee on Sunday.
State representative Sam Teasley, the first sponsor listed on the bill, did not respond to request for comment Monday.
"The bill was filed and is being pushed solely because that's what all the cool conservative kids are doing, and because it sends a message of defiance to those who believe that gay Americans ought to be treated the same as everybody else," writes Jay Bookman, a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Passing it would seriously stain the reputation of Georgia and the Georgia Legislature."
Kansas set off a national firestorm last week when the GOP-controlled House passed a bill that would have allowed anyone to refuse to do business with same-sex couples by citing religious beliefs. The bill, which covered both private businesses and individuals, including government employees, would have barred same-sex couples from suing anyone who denies them food service, hotel rooms, social services, adoption rights, or employment—as long as the person denying the service said he or she had a religious objection to homosexuality. As of this week, the legislation was dead in the Senate. But the Kansas bill is not a one-off effort.
Republicans lawmakers and a network of conservative religious groups has been pushing similar bills in other states, essentially forging a national campaign that, critics say, would legalize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Republicans in Idaho, Oregon, South Dakota, and Tennessee recently introduced provisions that mimic the Kansas legislation. And Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have introduced broader "religious freedom" bills with a unique provision that would also allow people to deny services or employment to LGBT Americans, legal experts say.
"This is a concerted campaign that the religious Right has been hinting at for a couple of years now," says Evan Hurst, associate director of Truth Wins Out, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes gay rights. "The fact that they're doing it Jim Crow-style is remarkable, considering the fact that one would think the GOP would like to be electable among people under 50 sometime in the near future."
Several of these measures have sprung up within a short period of time. The Kansas bill was introduced by Republican state Rep. Charles Macheers on January 16. On January 28, Idaho state Rep. Lynn Luker (R-Boise) introduced a bill that would prohibit the state from yanking the professional licenses of people who deny service or employment to anyone (including LGBT customers) on the basis of their religious beliefs. (There's an exception for emergency responders.) Luker has since pulled that bill back into committee, to address concerns about the language being discriminatory.
On January 30, a coalition of Republican senators and representatives in South Dakota introduced a bill that would have allowed a business to refuse to serve or people due to their sexual orientation, or be compelled to hire someone because of their sexual orientation. Under this measure, a gay person who brought a lawsuit charging discrimination based on sexual orientation could have faced punitive damages of no less than $2,000. The bill also declared that it is protected speech to tell someone that his or her lifestyle is "wrong or a sin." The bill was killed this week by the state Senate judiciary committee.
On February 5, Republicans introduced legislation in both chambers of the Tennessee Legislature allowing a person or company to refuse to provide services such as food, accommodation, counseling, adoption, or employment to people in civil unions or same-sex marriages, or transgender individuals, "if doing so would violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the person." (Government employees are excluded.) State Rep. Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) tells Mother Jones that he sponsored the bill because "a person shouldn't get sued for choosing not to participate in a person's wedding." But this week, the bill's lead sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown), shelved the measure until next year after facing heavy criticism. And in Oregon, voters could have the opportunity this year to vote on a ballot initiative that would also allow people to refuse on religious grounds to support same-sex couples.
In addition to these bills, lawmakers in Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Mississippi have recently introduced Religious Freedom Restoration Acts with a provision that could also allow discrimination against LGBT Americans. These state-sponsored RFRAs, which aim to stop new laws from burdening religious exercise, are nothing new—29 states already have some kind of RFRA in place through legislation or court action. But legal experts say that these particular bills are unique in that they allow individuals—and in some states, businesses—to cite religion as a defense in a private lawsuit. In the past, courts have been split on the issue. But in 2012, in New Mexico, a photographer tried to use religion in court as grounds for refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding. Last year, the photographer's studio lost its discrimination lawsuit. The bills are a direct reaction to that lawsuit, say multiple legal experts. "The Kansas bill is more obvious, but some of these RFRAs will have similar effects…they're just as bad," says Maggie Garrett, legislative counsel for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
The RFRAs and the bills that target same-sex marriage have been pushed by Republican lawmakers, but in some cases, they were first promoted or drafted by a network of conservative Christian groups. According to the Wichita Eagle, the American Religious Freedom Program (ARFP)—which is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative organization founded in 1976—crafted the language for the Kansas bill. Brian Walsh, executive director of the ARFP, which supports religious freedom measures, acknowledges that his group consulted with the legislators on the bill, but he says that lots of other groups did as well: "We gave them suggestions and they took some of them." Walsh says that ARFP was contacted by legislators who wrote the Tennessee bill and that the group frequently talked to legislators in South Dakota about "religious freedom" but not the state's specific bill.Julie Lynde, executive director of Cornerstone Family Council in Idaho, one of many state groups that are part of Citizen Link, a branch of Focus on the Family, told Al Jazeera America, "We've been involved in working on the language" of the Idaho bill. Another member of Citizen Link, the Arizona Policy Center, has been active in supporting the Arizona bill. And the Oregon ballot initiative was proposed by Friends of Religious Freedom, a conservative Oregon nonprofit.
Walsh told Mother Jones he believes these bills, particularly the one in Kansas, have been misunderstood, and the aim is not to facilitate discrimination against the LGBT community. "Our goal—and we suspect the goal of others—has been to try to find the right balance between fully protecting religious freedom and other civil liberties so that both sides of the marriage debate can coexist harmoniously," he says. But Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU, takes a different stance: "These bills are discriminatory, pure and simple."
"This seems to be a concerted Hail Mary campaign to carve out special rights for religious conservatives so that they don't have to play by the same rules as everyone else does," says Hurst, from Truth Wins Out. "In this new up-is-down world, anti-gay religious folks are 'practicing their faith' when they're baking cakes or renting out hotel rooms to travelers. On the ground, [these bills] hurt real, live LGBT people."