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1 Crimea ‘independence’ triggers Western sanctions on Russia (Matthew Lee in San Francisco Chronicle) Unsuccessful with previous threats, the US and its European allies have stepped up their pressure on Russia to end its intervention in Ukraine by imposing the most comprehensive sanctions against Russian officials since the Cold War. Acting in concert with Europe, the Obama administration froze the US assets of seven Russian officials, including top advisers to President Vladimir Putin, for their support of Crimea’s vote to secede from Ukraine, while similar sanctions were imposed on four Ukrainian officials for instigating Sunday’s Crimean referendum.
Although the threat of sanctions has failed thus far to persuade Putin to drop support for Crimea’s secession and potential entry into the Russian Federation President Barack Obama said failure to step back now would draw move severe consequences. But administration critics said Obama’s actions were too little to convince Putin of anything. “I think Vladimir Putin must be encouraged by the absolute timidity,” said Sen. John McCain, who had just returned from a weekend trip to Kiev.
The US, European Union and others say that splitting off Crimea from Ukraine violates the Ukrainian constitution and international law and has taken place under duress from the Russian military. Putin maintains that the vote was legal and consistent with the right of self-determination. The sanctions freeze any assets the targeted individuals have under US jurisdiction, make it illegal for Americans to do business with them and discourage international banks and financial institutions from having relationships with them.
2 Financial system still ‘too big to fail’, warns official (Katie Allen & Jill Treanor in The Guardian) A major overhaul of the Bank of England is expected to be signalled today alongside the appointment of a new deputy governor.
One of the most senior and high-profile roles at the Bank – deputy governor for monetary policy – is expected to be filled after a round of interviews provoked by the impending retirement of Charlie Bean. Bean is one of three deputy governors at the Bank, alongside Andrew Bailey for financial regulation and Sir Jon Cunliffe who looks after financial stability and who warned yesterday that many banks are still “too big to fail” – more than five years after the collapse of Lehman.
Cunliffe said in a speech: “I do not think we can say with confidence now that we could resolve a failing global giant.” There was speculation last night that Bean’s replacement would be named by the Treasury as the Bank of England’s governor, Mark Carney, outlines sweeping changes to the way is bank is run following a review by management consultants at McKinsey.
Cunliffe said that more needed to be done to solve the need for taxpayer bailouts of banks. He said getting agreement on international standards to end the problem of “too big to fail” was perhaps the most important regulatory priority for the G20 summit in Brisbane in November this year. Ending “too big to fail” may be the litmus by which the public judged the success of the entire reform programme, he added. Taxpayers still own 81% of Royal Bank of Scotland and 33% of Lloyds Banking Group, both of which were rescued by taxpayers in the weeks after Lehman’s sudden collapse.
3 Car ban in polluted Paris (BBC) Hundreds of police monitored traffic in Paris on Monday after high pollution levels prompted the French government to impose major restrictions. Only motorists with odd-numbered number plates were allowed to drive. Those with those even-numbered plates will be allowed to travel on Tuesday after the success of Monday’s initiative led to a fall in pollution.
Ministers acted after air pollution exceeded safe levels for five days running in Paris and surrounding areas. But the environment ministry said lower traffic levels during throughout Monday and a change in weather conditions had significantly improved the smog which has descended on Paris over the past week. The measure has been tried once before, in 1997. Paris air quality monitoring body Airparif says it had a noticeable impact on improving air quality, although critics have disputed its findings.
Motorcycles were also covered by the ban. There were exceptions for taxis, commercial electric and hybrid vehicles and for cars carrying three or more passengers.
4 Greece, Spain, SA lead in youth joblessness (Johannesburg Times) Youth unemployment in South Africa is the third highest in the world, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said. “About 71 percent of all unemployed people in South Africa are between the ages of 15 to 29. Most of the them are women, the majority of which have never had a job in their lives,” Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said.
He said South Africa ranked third after Greece and Spain. “Half of the people between 15-29 are unemployed in this country.” The union would stage a protest march in seven cities on Wednesday to highlight youth unemployment and demand solutions. The union wanted the Employment Tax Incentive Act repealed and scrapped.
Numsa’s protest would be joined by various civil organisations. The union expected 500,000 people to march in Johannesburg (Gauteng), KwaZulu-Natal, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, and Mpumalanga.