Pro-Ukraine protestors march towards Odessa's trade union building, where two days before more than 40 people were killed in a fire that tore through the structure.
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After months of steady conflict and protest in a dozen cities in eastern Ukraine, the crisis in the country has escalated in the past week with deadly clashes in Slovaynsk, and in the port city of Odessa—the first serious instance of violence outside eastern Ukraine. The clashes have left more than 70 dead, according to figures publicized by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry. With the nation's May 25 presidential and mayoral elections looming, Ukrainian officials are desperate to maintain order, sending an elite special forces unit to help safeguard Odessa, appointing a new military commander, and even urging the creation of a "volunteer army." (The Kremlin, for its part, has called Kiev's plan to go forward with the elections "absurd.") Below is a rundown of the recent developments. We'll update this post as news unfolds.
What just happened in Odessa? In the deadliest day of the Ukraine crisis since the ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych, at least 46 people died in the Black Sea port city on Friday, following clashes between pro-Russian separatists and pro-Ukraine activists. The conflict began as armed street-fighting and escalated when the House of Trade Unions, which had become a makeshift headquarters for pro-Russian forces, was set ablaze, in part by Molotov cocktails. Dozens died of smoke inhalation or as they jumped from the building to escape the flames. Most of those killed are believed to have been pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine's Foreign Ministry blamed the violence on provocateurs "paid generously by the Russian special services," while Russia pointed the finger at Right Sector, a Ukrainian nationalist group. Here's video of the incident:
Over the weekend, a group of pro-Russian protesters attacked an Odessa police station demanding the release of other demonstrators, and leading to the release of 67 activists. Odessa has a diverse population of Ukrainians, Georgians, and Tatars, but a large percentage of the region is Russian-speaking. Fearing additional Russian encroachment, Ukraine sent an elite special forces unit to Odessa on Monday.
Violence is escalating in eastern Ukraine, too: According to Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, four Ukrainian officers were killed and 30 wounded in Slaviansk on Friday after Ukrainian troops launched an offensive against separatist forces occupying government buildings. The small city has become a hub for the movement opposing the new interim government in Kiev. On Monday, 30 pro-Russian separatists were also killed in the city after ambushing Ukrainian forces, according to Avakov.
During Friday's fighting, three Ukrainian helicopters were shot down near Slaviansk. The Ukrainian Security Service reported that one of the helicopters was shot down with a surface-to-air missile, complex equipment that suggests the separatists have ties to the Russian military; Moscow denies any involvement. Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that negotiations between Ukraine and Russia will remain stalled until Ukraine pulls its troops out of Slaviansk.
The video below, highlighted by The Interpreter, purports to show Ukrainian Air Force planes flying over Slaviansk on Monday. They seem to be using flares to deflect infrared-guided surface-to-air missiles—the same kind of missiles that were used to down several Ukrainian helicopters last week.
Responding to the violence, Ukraine's largest bank, Privatbank, has temporarily closed all of its branches in Donetsk and Luhansk. It said in a statement that in 10 days, 38 of its ATMs, 24 branches, and 11 cash collection vans had "suffered arson, assault and wanton destruction" at the hands of "armed people [who] break into bank branches and seize security vans." The bank has been targeted by separatists in part because its co-owner, billionaire and current Dnipropetrovsk region governor Igor Kolomoisky, offered the Ukrainian military a $10,000 bounty for every pro-Russian "saboteur" they catch.
The closures are likely to cause economic havoc for many: Privatbank said that it processes the pensions of more than 400,000 retirees, along with other benefits for an additional 220,000 peopleacross both regions.
Kidnappings and death threats:On Saturday, seven military observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were released after having been held hostage by pro-Russian separatists, who had seized their bus and accused them of spying in late April.
Meanwhile, kidnappings, disappearances, and death threats have been escalating. Pro-Russian activists have been posting photos and personal information of EuroMaidan activists and members of Right Sector that the groups allege had a hand in stoking Friday's violence in Odessa. The posts often include captions calling for activists to "find and destroy" those pictured, reports Kyiv Post. Human Rights Watch also published a report today chronicling abductions of activists, journalists, and local officials in eastern Ukraine. Most of those who've been released were beaten while captive, and some were seriously injured, HRW reports. Still others, including two members of the local election commission in Konstantinovka, remain captive and their whereabouts are unknown.
At Buzzfeed, Mike Giglio, who himself was briefly held hostage near Slaviansk, also reports on the increasing kidnappings of pro-Ukraine activists, as well as an "exodus" of locals such as Olena Tkachenko, who ran a hotline for pro-Ukraine activists in Donetsk. After getting threatening text messages, including one that said "We will kill you all," she packed up a few belongings and told her 9-year-old daughter that they were going on vacation.
In addition to kidnappings and those leaving on their own, reports of disappearances continue to roll in:
Natalya Korolevskaya, former Yanukovych minister and critic of separatism, has gone missing on her way to Sloviansk: http://t.co/20IQPKtGlk
Nearby countries are getting nervous: On Monday, Moldova's president, prime minister, and parliament speaker issued a statement saying they were placing troops on the border with Ukraine on alert because of the growing violence. And Reuters reports that Lithuania's Ministry of National Defense announced that it had received a note from Russia suspending a 2001 military agreement between the two countries. Lithuania has been generally supportive of Ukraine and the Maidan movement. The agreement between the two nations had required Russia and Lithuania to share some military intel, and allowed mutual military inspections—of Russia's Baltic fleet in the nearby region of Kaliningrad, and of the Lithuanian military.
"Lithuania kept all conditions of this agreement and has not given a pretext for such Russian action," a defense ministry spokesperson told Reuters.
Hundreds of US troops have also been deployed to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia for joint training.
Is the US doing anything to respond? On Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called on NATO to reconsider its relationship with Russia, calling the ongoing violence in Ukraine a "clarifying moment" for NATO's post-Soviet relationship with Russia. Meanwhile, President Obama promised further sanctions on Russia if it disrupts the presidential elections that are set to take place in Ukraine on May 25. Senate Republicans have also introduced a bill that would go even further than Obama's proposals, increasing sanctions on Russia's banking and energy sectors and providing Ukraine with military assistance, including weapons.
Update 1, May 7, 2014 5:15 p.m. EDT: In a Kremlin press conference, Russian President Vladimir Putin offered two directives that could signal a move towards deescalation of the Ukraine conflict. He called on pro-Russian separatists in the southeast of Ukraine to postpone the referendum vote scheduled for this Sunday, May 11. The purpose of the impending referendum is to vote on the secession of two eastern Ukraine provinces.
Putin also announced that he was pulling Russian troops back from the Ukrainian border. NATO officials, however, say they haven't seen any immediate evidence of troops receding.
Last summer, fry cooks, drive-thru cashiers, and burger flippers in 60 cities took to picket lines to protest low wages that have barely grown in 40 years. In fact, adjusting for inflation, average hourly pay for fast-food workers has fallen 29 cents in the last decade alone.
The protests have since multiplied in size and scope: Fast food workers walked off the job in 100 cities this past December, calling for a minimum wage of $15 an hour. In March, lawsuits were filed in three states alleging an epidemic of wage theft at McDonald's franchises, kicking off demonstrations from New York to Kansas City to Detroit. Last month, a coalition supporting the protests sponsored the first-ever national poll of fast food workers—which found that 89 percent of them reported having wages stolen—and a new analysis was released showing that top fast-food executives now make about 1200 times more than their franchise staffers.
After hearing about last summer's demonstrations, California photographer Gregg Segal wanted to illustrate the stagnant wages being paid to many of America's 21 million fast food industry employees. He attended a Service Employees International Union organizing meeting in Hollywood where he met five workers, all employees of McDonalds or Burger King, some in the ritziest parts of LA. He asked them to don old-school uniforms of their respective employers from the '60s and '70s that he'd dug up on eBay.
"I wanted a quick read that says, 'This is a fast food worker today,'" Segal says. "And the wages are as vintage as the uniforms."
For a sobering look at what fast food workers are up against, try our wage calculator below these photos and see how your family would fare on a typical fast-food paycheck.
Samuel goes by "Homer" and works at a Hollywood Burger King. He moved to Los Angeles from North Carolina to live with his dad, a pastor. They live in a rough part of south central LA in a room attached to the makeshift church where Homer's dad preaches. Homer works his fast food job three or four days a week and attends junior college.
Jackie works at a Hollywood McDonald's. She's a single mom to her daughter (pictured); this photo was taken at the apartment complex where the pair shares a studio.
21-year-old Llasmin and 23-year-old Sonia worked at the same Hollywood McDonalds as Jackie, but both quit recently because of the low pay. "The situation is just not getting any better," Llasmin says. Both women are students, juggling full-time school with work. Sonia, who will graduate in May, works full-time at a new job, which pays $12/hour and comes with benefits. Llasmin is working part-time at a bakery and looking for a second job.
Llasmin lives with her mother (pictured) and brother in a studio apartment, sharing this bunk bed with her mom. Her mother used to sell tamales and clean houses, but has had to cut back because of health issues. Besides money her brother occasionally earns doing construction, Llasmin's salary is now the family's only income.
Jose, who is 61 years old, has worked at the same Burger King on Santa Monica Boulevard for 24 years. Today Jose makes $8.25 an hour—just 75 cents more than his starting wage in 1990.
Jose lives in a studio apartment across the street from his job. His rent is $700, and his monthly take-home pay recently fell to about $850 after his hours were reduced below the threshold his employer would have had to provide him with health coverage. Now Jose works six hours, five days a week, and is uninsured.
In order to make $___ a year, the typical fast-food worker has to work __ hours a week.
A household like yours in ___,___ needs to earn $__ annually to make a secure yet modest living. A fast-food worker working full time would have to earn $__ an hour to make that much.
The average fast-food employee works less than 25 hours a week. To make a living wage in ___,___ at current median wages, s/he would have to work __ hours a week.
In __ hours, McDonald's serves __ customers and makes $__. That's about __ Big Macs.
Last week, as the National Rifle Association geared up for its annual meeting in Indianapolis, a spokesman summed up the group's base. "Everyone thinks our strength comes from our money. It doesn't," Andrew Arulanandam told the Indianapolis Star. "Our strength is truly in our membership. We have a savvy and loyal voting bloc." The NRA regularly cites its devoted 4-5 million members as evidence of its clout and relevance. Yet while the gun lobby publicly extols its grassroots supporters, it has also been overlooking their interests while catering to those of the oil and gas industry.
In 2012, six oil and gas companies contributed a total of between $1.3 million and $5.6 million to the NRA, according to CAP. (The companies are Clayton Williams Energy, J.L. Davis Gas Consulting, Kamps Propane, Barrett Brothers Oil and Gas, Saulsbury Energy Services, and KS Industries.)
The NRA's heftiest energy contributor by far is Clayton Williams Energy. CWE is the NRA's largest corporate donor outside of the firearm industry, and one of its six largestoverall donors. The publicly owned Texas energy company has donated no less than $2 million to the NRA in the past four years: at least $1 million in 2010, according to an SEC filing, and at least $1 million in 2012, according to the NRA. In 2010, CEO, president, director, and board chairman Clayton Williams Jr. told a meeting of oil drillers that he'd given more than $3 million to the NRA. In 2013, Williams and his wife, Modesta, were inducted into the NRA's Golden Ring of Freedom, a small circle of major donors. The couple was celebrated in a 10-page feature story in a 2011 issue of the NRA's Ring of Freedom magazine.
CWE, which is largely owned by Williams and his family, focuses on extracting oil and natural gas and has no direct ties to the firearms industry. However, Williams and his wife are avid hunters and he says he plans to "retire and go hunting." (Though not, he hopes, until he's 90.) Williams once said that "the enemies of the National Rifle Association are enemies of mine." Williams ran for governor of Texas in 1990, and kept up a 20-point lead for much of the race. He lost after making a comment comparing rape to bad weather: "If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."
As major NRA donors, Clayton "Claytie" Williams and his wife Modesta were featured in Ring of Freedom magazine NRA Ring of Freedom
Not long after CWE donated $1 million to the NRA in 2010, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) introduced the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act. The bill was a big deal as far as anti-conservation bills go: "It posed a very real threat to backcountry areas around the country," says Matt Lee-Ashley, a CAP senior fellow and the author of the think tank's report. The bill would have enabled logging, mining, oil and gas extraction, and road building on protected federal lands. More than 200 wildlife managers and scientists wrote to Congress voicing their opposition, noting that "most of us are dedicated hunters and anglers." Representatives from eight sportsmen's groups in Colorado wrote their congressional delegation, calling the bill "an affront to a long-standing public process and our outdoor heritage."
The NRA said the bill would protect "the ability of the American people to access lands that belong, not to the government, or to extremist environmental groups, but to the people."
Despite these concerns from parts of its longtime constituency, the NRA teamed up with oil and gas interests—including the American Petroleum Institute and the National Mining Association—to lobbyfor the bill. The NRA explained its position with an appeal to hunters and a dig at conservationists. McCarthy's bill, it said, "will make public hunting lands not suitable for wilderness designation available to millions of Americans that are unfairly closed out from them now…protecting the ability of the American people to access lands that belong, not to the government, or to extremist environmental groups, but to the people."
The bill failed to pass in 2011 and again in 2012. Its supporters moved on to a similar new measure, the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act, which was introduced in 2011 and again in the current Congress by Rep. Dan Benishek (R-Mich.). In its analysis of the bill, the National Wildlife Federation called it "nothing more than the sportsmen community being used as a cover to hide an attack on Wilderness, National Monuments, and National Wildlife Refuges." Susan Recce, director of conservation, wildlife, and natural resources at the NRA, testified before the House in favor of the bill, calling her opponents' arguments "specious." The bill passed the House in February after being tacked on to H.R. 3590, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (SHARE Act).*
The NRA's lobbying on these bills appears to contradict the express commitment of of its lobbying arm to "be involved in any issue that directly or indirectly affects firearms ownership and use. These involve such topics as hunting and access to hunting lands [and] wilderness and wildlife conservation." CAP's report also cites several polls showing that preservation of wildlife is important to most sportsmen: A 2012 poll found that two-thirds of sportsmen want to maintain current conservation levels and oppose "allowing private companies to develop public lands when it would limit the public's enjoyment of—or access to—these lands." In a 2013 survey of hunters and anglers, nearly 75 percent of respondents opposed selling public lands to help reduce the deficit.
"The idea that wildlife is a public good to be managed for the benefit of all is now so widely accepted among sportsmen that the prospect of the principle being undermined or eroded seems unimaginable," Lee-Ashley notes in his report. CAP asked the NRA to clarify the relationship between its oil industry contributors and its recent anti-conservationist lobbying but did not receive a response. (Mother Jones also asked the NRA for comment, and we'll update this story if it responds.)
CWE's contributions to the NRA have also caught the eye of one of its shareholders. New York City Pension Funds have more than $3 million invested in the company. Last week, New York City comptroller Scott Stringer sent a letter to the company asking it to explain its large donations to the NRA and to American Crossroads, Karl Rove's super-PAC. Stringer explained his action to the Associated Press: "The reported contributions are extremely large for such a small company and seem intended to further the political views of its chairman and CEO rather than the interests of the company itself."
Correction: An earlier version of this article said the Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act was still awaiting a House vote.
Last week, the online dating site OkCupid switched up its homepage for Mozilla Firefox users.Upon opening the site, a message appeared encouraging members to curb their use of Firefox because the company's new CEO, Brendan Eich, allegedly opposes equality for gay couples—specifically, he donated $1000 to the campaign for the anti-gay Proposition 8 in 2008. "We've devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together," the message read. "If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we've worked so hard to bring about would be illegal." The company's action went viral, and within a few days, Eich had resigned as CEO of Mozilla only weeks after taking up the post. On Thursday, OkCupid released a statement saying "We are pleased that OkCupid's boycott has brought tremendous awareness to the critical matter of equal rights for all individuals and partnerships."
But there's a hitch: OkCupid's co-founder and CEO Sam Yagan once donated to an anti-gay candidate. (Yagan is also CEO of Match.com.) Specifically, Yagan donated $500 to Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah) in 2004, reports Uncrunched. During his time as congressman from 1997 to 2009, Cannon voted for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, against a ban on sexual-orientation based job discrimination, and for prohibition of gay adoptions.
He's also voted for numerous anti-choice measures, earning a 0 percent rating from NARAL Pro Choice America. Among other measures, Cannon voted for laws prohibiting government from denying funds to medical facilities that withhold abortion information, stopping minors from crossing state lines to obtain an abortion, and banning family planning funding in US aid abroad. Cannon also earned a 7 percent rating from the ACLU for his poor civil rights voting record: He voted to amend FISA to allow warrant-less electronic surveillance, to allow NSA intelligence gathering without civil oversight, and to reauthorize the PATRIOT act.
Of course, it's been a decade since Yagan's donation to Cannon, and a decade or more since many of Cannon's votes on gay rights. It's possible that Cannon's opinions have shifted, or maybe his votes were more politics than ideology; a tactic by the Mormon Rep. to satisfy his Utah constituency. It's also quite possible that Yagan's politics have changed since 2004: He donated to Barack Obama's campaign in 2007 and 2008. Perhaps even Firefox's Eich has rethought LGBT equality since his 2008 donation. But OkCupid didn't include any such nuance in its take-down of Firefox. Combine that with the fact that the company helped force out one tech CEO for something its own CEO also did, and its action last week starts to look more like a PR stunt than an impassioned act of protest. (Mother Jones reached out to OkCupid for comment: We'll update this post if we receive a response.)
Update April 8, 2014, 12:30 p.m. PDT: OkCupid CEO Sam Yagan provided a statement to the SF Chronicle this morning clarifying the intentions behind his donation to Cannon and his stance on gay rights. Here it is in full:
A decade ago, I made a contribution to Representative Chris Cannon because he was the ranking Republican on the House subcommittee that oversaw the Internet and Intellectual Property, matters important to my business and our industry. I accept responsibility for not knowing where he stood on gay rights in particular; I unequivocally support marriage equality and I would not make that contribution again today. However, a contribution made to a candidate with views on hundreds of issues has no equivalence to a contribution supporting Prop. 8, a single issue that has no purpose other than to affirmatively prohibit gay marriage, which I believe is a basic civil right.
New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy has been getting all sorts of flak on sports radio today for missing last night's game against the Washington Nationals. Why? Because yesterday was his second (and final) day of paternity leave, which is apparently one too many.
Murphy got word late on Sunday night that his wife was in labor, and rushed to Florida to be with her. He was there for the birth of their first child the next day, Monday, which also happened to be Opening Day. The Mets had Tuesday off, and Murphy decided to stay with his wife Wednesday before flying back in time for today's game, also against the Nationals, which he played in. Murphy told ESPN that he and his wife decided together that it would be best for him to stay the extra day. "Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off," he said. "It felt, for us, like the right decision to make."
"You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help…Are you gonna sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days?"
For a number of sports commentators, however, Murphy's decision seemed ludicrous. New York-based radio host Mike Francesa kicked off the outrage yesterday afternoon, devoting his entire WFAN show to asking, exasperatedly, why on earth a man would need to take off more than the few hours during which his child is actually born. "For a baseball player, you take a day. All right. Back in the lineup the next day. What are you doing? What would you be doing? I guarantee you're not sitting there holding your wife's hand."
"You're a major league baseball player. You can hire a nurse to take care of the baby if your wife needs help," he said. "I don't see why you need…What are you gonna do? Are you gonna sit there and look at your wife in the hospital bed for two days? What are you gonna do?
Repeating this question at least five more times over the course of a 20-minute segment, Francesa also continued to confuse maternity and paternity leave. Noting that it's possible for the lucky few to stagger their paternity leave rather than using it in one chunk, Francesa was dumbfounded: "What do you do? You work the next day, then you take off three months, to do what? Have a party? 'The baby was born…But I took maternity leave three months later.' For what? To take pictures? I mean, what would you possibly be doing? That makes no sense. I didn't even know there was such a thing." (The full clip is above.)
Hosts of WFAN's "Boomer & Carton" spent their morning show today piling on to the criticism. "To me, and this is just my sensibility: 24 hours," Craig Carton said. "You stay there, baby's good, you have a good support system for the mom and the baby. You get your ass back to your team and you play baseball."
Cohost and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason thought even 24 hours was too much time:"Quite frankly, I would've said, 'C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day.'"
The Mike and Mike show on ESPN Radio also devotedtons of airtime to scrutinizing the nondrama. Cohost Mike Golic, a former NFL defensive lineman, weighed in: "If you wanna be there for the birth of your child, I have zero problem with it. That said, when the baby is born…The baby was born on Monday. And he didn't play in a game [on Wednesday]? This is just me, I would have been back playing."
"Quite frankly, I would've said, 'C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day.'"
Notably, the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the players association allows for three days of paternity leave. That's better than most jobs—only about 13 percent of workplaces offer paternity leave at all, and the United States is one of four countries in the world that doesn't mandate leave for new moms and dads.
For his part, Murphy seems to be shrugging off the criticism: "We had a really cool occasion yesterday morning, about 3 o'clock. We had our first panic session," Murphy told ESPN. "It was just the three of us at 3 o'clock in the morning, all freaking out. He was the only one screaming. I wanted to. I wanted to scream and cry, but I don't think that's publicly acceptable, so I let him do it."