Saturday, 22 March 2014

Alan Turing's 'Morphogenesis' Theory Confirmed 60 Years After His Death

Alan Turing is remembered mostly for his work in computer science--and for cracking Nazi Germany's Enigma code. But the English mathematician also wrote a key biology paper in which he put forth an explanation for morphogenesis. That's the process by which identical cells in a developing organism differentiate into the various cells that make up the organism's adult form.
Now, 60 years after his suicide, scientists at Brandeis University and the University of Pittsburgh have published a study offering experimental evidence confirming Turing's theory.
Turing was the first to offer a chemical explanation of morphogenesis, study co-author Dr. Seth Fraden, a professor of physics at Brandeis, told The Huffington Post in an email. Turing theorized that cells change shape because chemicals in an embryo react with each other and diffuse across space, according to a written statement released by the University of Pittsburgh. He predicted six different patterns of morphogenesis that could arise from his model.
To test Turing's theory, Fraden and his collaborators created rings of synthetic, cell-like structures. Then Dr. G. Bard Ermentrout, a professor of computational biology and of mathematics at Pitt, used computational tools to analyze the results.
turingThis photo montage depicts morphogenesis from an initial homogeneous state (upper left, same volume and color) through a heterogeneous state (center, same volume but different colors) and into a chemo-physical heterogeneous state (lower right, different volumes and colors). This cellular differentiation takes place exactly as Alan Turing predicted it would in his 1952 paper "The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis.'
What happened? The researchers observed all six patterns predicted by Turing, plus a seventh that he didn't predict, according to the statement. In addition, the researchers noticed that the once identical cell-like structures started to change in size.
Turing's theory helps explains all sorts of biological phenomena, from the pigmentation of seashells to the shapes of flowers and leaves and even the geometric structures seen in drug-induced hallucinations, according to Ermentrout.
paper describing the new research was published March 10 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Latest Reason To Quit Hotmail: Microsoft Admits To Spying On It

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Microsoft Corp., which has skewered rival Google Inc. for going through customer emails to deliver ads, acknowledged Thursday it had searched emails in a blogger's Hotmail account to track down who was leaking company secrets.
John Frank, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, which owns Hotmail, said in a statement Thursday that the software company "took extraordinary actions in this case." In the future, he said, Microsoft would consult an outside attorney who is a former judge to determine if a court order would have allowed such a search.
The case involves former employee Alex Kibkalo, a Russian native who worked for Microsoft as a software architect in Lebanon.
According to an FBI complaint alleging theft of trade secrets, Microsoft found Kibkalo in September 2012 after examining the Hotmail account of the blogger with whom Kibkalo allegedly shared proprietary Microsoft code. The complaint filed Monday in federal court in Seattle did not identify the blogger.
"After confirmation that the data was Microsoft's proprietary trade secret, on September 7, 2012, Microsoft's Office of Legal Compliance (OLC) approved content pulls of the blogger's Hotmail account," says the complaint by FBI agent Armando Ramirez.
The search of the email account occurred months before Microsoft provided Ramirez with the results of its internal investigation in July 2013.
The email search uncovered messages from Kibkalo to the blogger containing fixes for the Windows 8 RT operating system before they were released publicly. The complaint alleges Kibkalo also shared a software development kit that could be used by hackers to understand more about how Microsoft uses product keys to activate software.
Besides the email search, Microsoft also combed through instant messages the two exchanged that September. Microsoft also examined files in Kibkalo's cloud storage account, which until last month was called SkyDrive. Kibkalo is accused of using SkyDrive to share files with the blogger.
Kibkalo has since relocated to Russia, the FBI complaint says.
Frank said in his statement that no court order was needed to conduct the searches.
"Courts do not issue orders authorizing someone to search themselves," he said. "Even when we have probable cause, it's not feasible to ask a court to order us to search ourselves."
Hotmail's terms of service includes a section that says, "We may access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications, in order to ... protect the rights or property of Microsoft or our customers."
Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has taken a defiant stand against intrusions of customer privacy, in the wake of National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden's revelations of government snooping into online activities.
General counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post in December that Microsoft was "especially alarmed" at news reports of widespread government cyber-spying.
Microsoft also has a long-running negative ad campaign called "Scroogled," in which it slams Google for scanning "every word in every email" to sell ads, saying that "Google crosses the line."

Friday, 21 March 2014

Nun Rocks It On Italy's 'The Voice' Singing Competition And No One Can Believe It: Sister Cristina Scuccia Wows

Sister sister! You've never seen a nun shut it down like this one.
The judges of singing competition "The Voice of Italy" couldn't believe their ears when they heard Sister Cristina Scuccia belting out Alicia Keys' "No One," but they were in for a greater shock when they saw what Scuccia looked like.
Judges begin the show with their backs to the stage, and if they like what they hear they can swivel their chairs around-- but none of them were prepared for the sight of 25-year-old Scuccia, a member of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family, delivering a jaw-droppingly good performance in her black habit and silver cross. As the crowd cheered, her fellow sisters jumped up and down in delight.

The shocked and impressed judges asked her if she was really a nun, to which she replied, "Yes, I am truly, truly, a sister."
A native of Sicily, she arrived at the show accompanied by four sisters from her community as well as her parents. “I came here because I have a gift and I want to share that gift. I am here to evangelize,” she said, reports Catholic News Agency.
"If I had found you at Mass I would always be in church," said J-Ax, an Italian rapper who is one of the judges. "You and me are like the devil and holy water."
She trended on Twitter after her unbelievable performance, with many Italians showing their love for "#suorcristina."
The judges asked her what the Vatican would think of her singing, to which she replied, "I hope that Pope Francis will call me now," according to NY Daily News.
We can't wait to see more of this sister act!

Google's Apparently Sick Of Hearing People Complain About Glass

Apparently, Google is starting to get defensive about Glass.
On Thursday, the company took to Google Plus and released a post titled “The Top 10 Google Glass Myths.” The writeup contains several counter-claims to some of the familiar gripes people have about the technology. Here are some examples:
Myth: “Glass is always on and recording everything”
Google: "Glass isn't designed for or even capable of always-on recording"
Myth: “Glass marks the end of privacy"
Google: "People feared the same when the first cell phone cameras came out."
It makes sense for Google to address some of these common complaints. After all, for a product that's being marketed as the future of technology, a lot of the news surrounding the device hasn't been so positive.
Last year, a woman was given a traffic ticket for driving with her Glass (though it was later dismissed), and this month, a West Virginia state legislator sought to ban drivers from using the technology while on the road. In addition, more and more bars and restaurants are banning Glass entirely.
This isn’t the first time Google has attempted to keep the peace when it comes to Glass, either. Last month, the company released an etiquette guide for Explorers, or those currently testing Glass. "Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy," the post notes. "Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way."
In a blog post for The Huffington Post, Google Glass enthusiast Robert Scoble recently said Google is losing steam in its adoption of Glass. He pointed out the technology has been in its prototype phase for nearly two years with little tangible movement toward launch.
It's unclear if the negative public reception is holding the product back, but it's apparent Google seems keen on protecting Glass' image.

Obama Borrows From the JFK Playbook on Ukraine

President Obama appears to be using a strategic approach to the Ukrainian situation that is similar in many respects to that employed by his Democratic Party predecessor, President John F. Kennedy, in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In both cases, the two leaders were dealing with secret, unexpected, armed missions launched by aggressive Russian leaders against Western interests, with little precedent in both cases on how to handle the crises. Obviously the Cuban missile affair was a far more perilous showdown than what is now happening in the Ukraine. The Cuban affair had doomsday-type consequences. The invasion of Crimea does not entail any possibility of nuclear exchanges between two nations. But in other respects, there are parallels for Obama.
First, Obama has resorted to rallying his European allies around a common strategy to confront the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. So, too, did President Kennedy, gather together his Western nation counterparts to present a joint stance against the then Kremlin chieftan, Nikita Khrushchev. Second, Obama has called into session the most important regional security organization NATO, to devise ways to thwart the Russian occupation of Crimea, as well as asking the European Union to consider broad financial aid to Ukraine. In a like-minded move, President Kennedy convened the key regional body within the Americas, the Organization of American States (OAS), to issue an ultimatum to the Soviets to remove their missiles from Cuba. Third, in both their disputes, the two presidents sought out the United Nations to condemn the actions of Moscow and ask the Security Council to consider sending in neutral UN peacemakers to supervise a possible settlement of the conflicts. Fourth, given his limited options, especially that force was not possible, Obama has taken action to cancel US participation in the G-8 meeting in Sochi and threatened to halt trade talks with Moscow as well as place economic sanctions on Russia. Kennedy, for his side, famously instituted a far more draconian measure, a quarantine around the island of Cuba, to intercept Soviet destroyers from docking in Cuba.
At the same time, both men looked to the legitimate concerns raised by the Russian leadership in both crises and sought ways to give the Kremlin a means to back down from its military action without being humiliated. Kennedy employed back-channel emissaries as well as often inconsistent cable traffic to get the word to Khrushchev that there was a way out. For his part, Obama used his previously civil post-Cold War relations with Russia to phone Putin directly and talk about the latter's preoccupations. Now he is sending Secretary of State Kerry to meet with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
In the end, Kennedy was finally able to work out a deal with the USSR over Cuba whereby Washington gave a guarantee that it would not invade Cuba in exchange for a Soviet dismantling and withdrawal of its rockets from the island. Meantime Obama has, in his turn, suggested a way that the Russians can end its confrontation -- namely, have the Russian troops now in guard duty all over Crimea return to their bases in Sevastopol, and then have international observers put into Crimea to assure that there are no attacks against Russian citizens within the territory. If this happens, further talks could ensue to persuade the Russians not to encroach on Russian-friendly areas of eastern Ukraine or annex Crimea or recognize its independence. Still, whatever happens, the lessons from both momentous events is that the US must be prepared, as JFK was, to face down the Russians but at the same time take into account their realistic concerns and offer them a respectful exit strategy. 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Crimea Annexation: Putin Signs Treaty Making Region Part Of Russia

By Vladimir Soldatkin and Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW, March 18 (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin, defying Ukrainian protests and Western sanctions, on Tuesday signed a treaty making Crimea part Russia but said he did not plan to seize any other regions of Ukraine.

In a fiercely patriotic address to a joint session of the Russian parliament in the Kremlin, punctuated by standing ovations, cheering and tears, Putin lambasted the West for what he called hypocrisy. Western nations had endorsed Kosovo's independence from Serbia but now denied Crimeans the same right, he said.

"You cannot call the same thing black today and white tomorrow," he declared to stormy applause, saying Western partners had "crossed the line" over Ukraine and behaved "irresponsibly".

He said Ukraine's new leaders, in power since the overthrow of pro-Moscow president Viktor Yanukovich last month, included "neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites".

Putin said Crimea's disputed referendum vote on Sunday, held under Russian military occupation, had shown the overwhelming will of the people to be reunited with Russia after 60 years as part of the Ukrainian republic.

To the Russian national anthem, Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty on making Crimea part of Russia. During his address, Putin was interrupted by applause at least 30 times.

"In the hearts and minds of people, Crimea has always been and remains an inseparable part of Russia," Putin said.

He thanked China for what he called its support, even though Beijing abstained on a U.N. resolution on Crimea that Moscow had to veto on its own, and said he was sure Germans would support the Russian people's quest for reunification, just as Russia had supported German reunification in 1990.

And he sought to reassure Ukrainians that Russia did not seek any further division of their country. Fears have been expressed in Kiev that Russia might move on the Russian-speaking eastern parts of Ukraine.

"Don't believe those who try to frighten you with Russia and who scream that other regions will follow after Crimea," Putin said. "We do not want a partition of Ukraine. We do not need this."

Setting out Moscow's view of the events that led to the overthrow of Yanukovich in a popular uprising last month, Putin said the "so-called authorities" in Kiev had stolen power in a coup and opened the way for extremists who would stop at nothing.

Making clear Russia's concern at the possibility of the U.S.-led NATO military alliance expanding into Ukraine, he declared: "I do not want to be welcomed in Sevastopol (Crimean home of Russia's Black Sea fleet) by NATO sailors."

Moscow's seizure of Crimea, denounced by the West as illegal and in breach of Ukraine's constitutions, has caused the most serious East-West crisis since the end of the Cold War.

Before Putin's speech, Ukraine's interim prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, sought to reassure Moscow on two key areas of concern, saying in a televised address delivered in Russian that Kiev was not seeking to join NATO, the U.S.-led military alliance, and would act to disarm Ukrainian nationalist militias.


On Monday, the United States and the European Union imposed personal sanctions on a handful of officials from Russia and Ukraine accused of involvement in Moscow's military seizure of the Black Sea peninsula, most of whose 2 million residents are ethnic Russians.

Russian politicians dismissed the sanctions as insignificant and a badge of honour. The State Duma, or lower house, adopted a statement urging Washington and Brussels to extend the visa ban and asset freeze to all its members.

Japan joined the mild Western sanctions on Tuesday, announcing the suspension of talks with Russia on investment promotion and visa liberalisation.

Russian forces took control of Crimea in late February following the toppling of Yanukovich after deadly clashes between riot police and protesters trying to overturn his decision to spurn a trade and cooperation deal with the EU and seek closer ties with Russia.

Despite strongly worded condemnations of the Crimean referendum, Western nations were cautious in their first practical steps against Moscow, seeking to leave the door open for a diplomatic solution.

Russian stocks gained another 2 percent after rallying strongly on Monday as investors noted the initial sanctions did not target businesses or executives. But the rouble fell 0.6 percent against the dollar and the euro.

In a sign of the negative impact of the crisis on the investment climate, Russia's state property agency said it may postpone major privatisation deals until the second half of the year.

U.S. President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on 11 Russians and Ukrainians blamed for the military seizure of Crimea, including Yanukovich, and two aides to Putin.

Putin himself, suspected in the West of trying to resurrect as much as possible of the former Soviet Union under Russian leadership, was not on the blacklist.

EU foreign ministers agreed to subject 21 Russian and Ukrainian officials to visa restrictions and asset freezes.

The U.S. list targeted higher-profile Russian officials close to Putin while the EU went for mid-ranking officials and military commanders more directly involved on the ground.

Washington and Brussels said more measures could follow in the coming days if Russia formally annexes Crimea.

The EU also said its leaders would sign the political part of an association agreement with Ukraine on Friday, in a gesture of support for the fragile coalition in Kiev.

Highlighting rifts in the EU, member state Austria offered on Tuesday to mediate between Moscow and the West.


Putin has declared that Russia has the right to defend, by military force if necessary, Russian citizens and Russian speakers living in former Soviet republics, raising concerns that Moscow may intervene elsewhere.

Putin has repeatedly accused the new leadership in Kiev of failing to protect Russian-speakers from violent Ukrainian nationalists. Ukraine's government has accused Moscow of staging provocations in Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine to justify military intervention.

In a symbolic gesture, Askyonov announced on Twitter that Crimea would switch to Moscow time from March 30, putting it two hours ahead of the rest of Ukraine.

In the Crimean capital Simferopol, the local government and businesses set about preparing for the switch to Russian rule.

Banks scrambled to introduce the rouble as an official currency alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia, although the switch could take place at the end of the month after March pensions and salaries are cleared, banking sources said.

The pan-European Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe cancelled a meeting to discuss sending a monitoring mission to Ukraine because the 57 members are deadlocked.

Monday, 17 March 2014

What Everyone Should Know About The Female Orgasm And Hooking Up (INFOGRAPHIC)

Research has shown that the female orgasm is easier to achieve in committed sexual relationships -- there's a level of comfort and intimacy that allows females to simply let go and find their happy place.
But what does that mean for all the single ladies out there trying to find sexual bliss in less-committed partnerships?
Thanks to Dr. Justin Lehmiller -- a sex educator and researcher in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University -- we now have ahandy infographic to explain the ins and outs of the female orgasm during hookups.
orgasm infographic

8 Ways to Grow Love

Main Entry Image

Love thrives in the bedrock of a man or woman's heart, leaks out into the fabric of a caring bond with your lover, and seeks expression in an infinite number of ways. When you hold a baby you feel love. When men and women touch each other intimately, it becomes more than just sex or erotic passion -- if fed by tenderness, affection and a loving spirit between husband and wife. It's all about love.
Your capacity for love defines you as a human being, fills up your soul with passion and teaches you about your hang ups, limitations, calling in life and the joy you have to offer others. Love heals wounds and carries you through the deepest waters of conflict and adversity.
Ultimately, love is a force unlike any other -- a power that sweeps through and defines your personal history and brings hope and wisdom to your present journey. It can truly change your world, turn it upside down with mystery and fun, and becomes the glue that holds two lovers in tandem as they ride through the intricate streets of life.
Where does this power called love come from? Within the depths of your own heart, implanted by life, the Spirit and experience. Here, you learn to listen to love's voice as it moves you to new heights and compels you to foster a dynamite passion for your lover, your mate in life.
For men, the power of love grows when they:
1. Practice explosive tenderness and affection.
Men struggle to define softness and tenderness as masculine; yet they can rock a woman's world and provide a backdrop for intimacy and authenticity. Close your eyes and think of times when you felt close and fond of your lover -- inside and outside the bedroom. Remind yourself of all the ways you can bring tender care to your wife's presence. What are all the ways you begin reaching out to your lover in tender ways with words, touch and other action?
2. Learn to better identify needs and wants, and to support each other in getting these met.
Begin a personal study of what you, as a human being, need to feel whole and complete. Include ideas about love, belonging, respect and empathy. Then discover what women need to feel whole, complete and loved by their man. Create an action plan to start loving habits that meet these needs.
3. Define their best self and live it out.
This means a careful identification of your core values -- what you really believe about life and love that brings integrity to all your decisions in life. Then practice each one -- make them habits you live by.
4. Become the sexiest man alive.
Work on your physical self and care for it. Get in shape. But more importantly, practice being romantic. Flirt with your wife. Make her feel special and beautiful -- for her body, but also her mind! Start with the talent of "listening" empathically and consistently -- yes, to everything she wants to talk about!
For women, the power of love grows when they:
1. Practice inner beauty.
This means defining your true identity by your own values and own model of womanhood. This involves ignoring the "beauty" messages from magazine and media and coming up with your own ways of identifying what inner beauty means -- centered on your character and personality.
2. Learn to recognize and talk about their need for care and affection.
So many woman just hold it inside and bleed to death emotionally without others knowing. Learn to affirm your deepest needs and find healthy ways to get those needs met. Talk to your lover about what you want and expect and give him room to grow in his capacity to give this kind of love.
3. Honor the differences between men and women.
This creates expectations consistent with the challenges men face in knowing and owning their true feelings and desires. This involves recognizing the gift you have to bring out the best in your man by modeling a deeper connection with your own needs and demonstrating how this works in the way you love him. Men thrive on respect and often doubt their ability to bring love into their mate's life.
4. Become the sexiest woman alive.
Work on your physical self, but more importantly, your inner beauty. Reach out to your man with deep respect that mirrors the respect you learn to hold for yourself. Define surrendering to your mate as a choice, not an obligation, knowing it comes from your own femininity and strength.
Love means power. Power that knows no limits. That moves mountains and creates joy, starts in the soul and pounds against the shoreline of life until no one can ignore it. And while we strive to find it in all our relationships in life, may we never fail to look beneath our own interior walls where we see it rest on the organs of hope and enduring peace. Waiting for release, like breath from our lungs that seeps into the air and touches the soul of our best friend, our lover for life.
Such is the power of love.

Crimea Parliament Declares Independence From Ukraine After Referendum

SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 15:  Russian flag held is seen on the Crimean parliament building before the Crimean referendum in Simferopol on March 15, 2014. (Photo by Bulent Doruk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine's Crimean peninsula declared itself an independent nation Monday after its residents voted overwhelmingly to secede and try to join Russia, while U.S. and European Union diplomats discussed sanctions against Russia for backing the referendum.
Ukraine's political turmoil has become Europe's most severe security crisis in years and tensions are high since Russian troops seized control of Crimea two weeks ago. Large amounts of Russian troops are also massed near the border with Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine, which has sharp political differences with the country's new government in Kiev.
The U.S., EU and Ukraine's new government do not recognize the referendum held Sunday in Crimea, saying it violates both Ukrainian and international norms. Moscow, however, considers the vote legitimate and Russian President Putin was to address both houses of parliament Tuesday on the Crimean issue.
The Crimean parliament declared that all Ukrainian state property on the Black Sea peninsula will be nationalized and become the property of the Crimean Republic. Lawmakers also asked the United Nations and other nations to recognize it and began work on setting up a central bank with money from Russia.
Crimean lawmakers said they were flying to Moscow later Monday to discuss annexation by Russia.
Russia is expected to face sanctions from the U.S. and Europe for backing the Crimean referendum, which could also encourage rising pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine's east and lead to further divisions in the nation of 46 million.
Moscow, meanwhile, called on Ukraine to become a federal state as a way of resolving the polarization between Ukraine's western regions — which favor closer ties with the 28-nation EU — and its eastern areas, which have long ties to Russia.
In a statement Monday, Russia's Foreign Ministry urged Ukraine's parliament to call a constitutional assembly that could draft a new constitution to make the country federal, handing more power to its regions. It also said country should adopt a "neutral political and military status," a demand reflecting Moscow's concern about the prospect of Ukraine joining NATO.
Russia is also pushing for Russian to become Ukraine's state language.
There was no immediate comment from Ukraine's new government, which emerged after the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russia after three months of protests that culminated in deadly clashes.
Reflecting the rising tensions, the Ukrainian parliament approved the president's order for a partial armed forces mobilization of up to 20,000 people.
In Brussels, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said the West must now retaliate.
"We need to show solidarity with Ukraine and therefore Russia leaves us no choice," Sikorski told reporters in Brussels. "The (annexation) of Crimea cannot rest without a response from the international community."

Friday, 14 March 2014

Is it Good for America to Only do What's Good for Business?

Opponents to President Obama's efforts to put millions of dollars in the pockets of people who've been working overtime for no pay want you to worry about business again.
Conservative business groups have responded with all-too-familiar claims of the harm Obama's plan will bring to their members. House Speaker John Boehner had this to say:
"The president's policies are making it difficult for employers to expand employment. And until the president's policies get out of the way, employers are going to continue to sit on their hands."
Here, just so we know what paying attention to such nonsense would mean for America, is a short list of actions and laws that would not have succeeded if what's supposedly good for business were the primary concern at the time they went into effect:
Emancipation Proclamation - made the eradication of slavery an important war goal, freeing millions of slaves without compensating their owners;
Fair Labor Standards Act - restricted the employment and abuse of child workers;
Title IX - established that no person in the U.S. can be excluded, on the basis of sex, from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance;
Americans with Disabilities Act - prohibited discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, and telecommunications;
Antitrust laws - prohibited business activities that federal government regulators deem to be anticompetitive
Minimum wage (FLSA and state laws) - set the lowest wage allowed by law
Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act - regulated the discharge of pollutants
It's time to stop listening to endless repetition of the narrow-minded view that rules and laws should not be changed if they pose even a whiff of difficulty for business. More often than not, it's a bogus argument and a selfish one at that. American businesses that inflexible are soon out of business anyway, and we're all the better for it.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Next Steps in the Ukraine Crisis

There is a stark and obvious asymmetry in the Ukraine crisis. Russia will use military force to get its way. The West will not and should not. There is no doubt that Russian militarized bullying can lead to the de facto division of Ukraine, an event that would be of grave long-term consequences not only for Russia and Ukraine but for the world. The practical question at hand is whether international law can still function to stop this from occurring. In my view, the answer is yes.
The problem with international law is that the great powers, including both the US and Russia, give it allegiance opportunistically, only when it is to their short-term convenience. The US launched the Iraq War against international law. The US has recently destabilized many regimes against international law that protect the sovereignty of UN member states. The US is supporting a violent insurgency in Syria to bring down the regime against international law.
Now it is Russia's turn to violate international law. Russia's actions in the Crimea are perfectly intelligible in terms of Russia's interests and foreign policy traditions, but they are also clearly in violation of international law. Russia has high stakes in Ukraine, and the extra-constitutional toppling of Yanukovich was against Russian interests and provoked Russia's response in Crimea. The West should acknowledge Russia's valid economic and security concerns in Ukraine, but it should not accede to Russia's unilateral and illegal actions in Crimea (and still less if they spread to Eastern Ukraine).
The most important governing law in this immediate case is both explicit and extremely important. It is the treaty-backed agreement reached by four powers in 1994, Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom, known as "The Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with Ukraine's accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation on Nuclear Weapons (NPT)." It is filed with the UN Security Council as S/1994/1399, on December 19, 1994.
The issue at hand in 1994 was as important as any issue of international law: the management of nuclear arms. Ukraine and Russia had just recently become independent after the demise of the Soviet Union in December 1991. Ukraine had inherited a nuclear arms stockpile. In the interest of nuclear non-proliferation and to prevent accidents, terrorism, or a nuclear showdown in the post-Soviet region, the US and Russia prevailed on Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons and hand them to Russia.
The quid pro quo, at stake today, was Ukraine's territorial sovereignty. Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons on the assurance that it would remain sovereign and secure, including from Russia. As Ukraine renounced nuclear weapons and joined the NPT, Russia, the US, and UK, "reaffirmed their commitment ... to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine." Moreover, the parties reaffirmed:
their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations;
As for threats of energy cutoffs or other economic sanctions, the parties reaffirmed:
to refrain from economic coercion designed to subordinate to their own interest the exercise by Ukraine of the rights inherent in its sovereignty and thus to secure advantages of any kind;
Crucially, the memorandum made clear that the four parties (including Ukraine) would "consult in the event a situation arises that raises a question concerning these commitments."
This international agreement is the basis for Russia to return to its base in Crimea, and for Crimea to remain part of Ukraine. It is the guarantee of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. It is the bulwark against economic blackmail. In short, it is the place where peaceful nations must take their stand in the current crisis.
The United States should make the legal case, again and again, in the UN Security Council. It should explain the global agreements in detail to the American people, the UN member states, and the world. It should require that Russia explain its actions in light of its clear responsibilities to consult with Ukraine, not as a matter of good neighborliness, but as a matter of solemn international obligation.
There are three weaknesses in this approach. First, international law works slowly, while armaments and events move quickly. No doubt that is true. Second, and just as important, the US is a frequent violator of international law. Invoking it is a double-edged sword: Many US initiatives will be called into question (e.g. in Syria). Third, Russia is not especially lawyerly in its foreign policy. Yet its record of abiding by international treaties is actually much stronger than is widely known.
The West acted foolishly in Ukraine, thinking that a popular upheaval could sweep a pro-Russian government from power and yet not prompt a hostile Russian reaction. The EU was naïve in thinking it could spring Ukraine from Russian influence through a mere association agreement or a loan. Any government in Ukraine must pay attention to the security and economic interests of its powerful neighbor to the East. The West should not feed fantasies held by segments of Ukrainian society.
Yet the West should not accede to Russian demands. Upholding Ukraine's sovereignty is not just about Ukraine. It is about the non-proliferation treaty itself, and global safety in a nuclear-armed world.
Yet there can be no military response from the West. Analogies to Munich 1938 are not correct. In a nuclear world, Russia will not invade the West nor can the West triumph militarily over Russia.
Similarly, sanctions will not play any real role except dig both sides deeper into confrontation. Visa restrictions are less than pin pricks, signs of silliness not policy. The UN Security Council should insist on reason from Russia, and West should insist on reason and moderation from Kiev.
All sides will lose in a deepening confrontation and horrible mistakes would be possible. Russia's security interests should be respected, but Russia should abide by international law, and the US should do so in Syria and other areas of Russian concern. For the entire world, international law is the key to long-term survival. It may be a slender thread, but it is the only thread we have.