On Sunday, Ukraine's military entered the center of Luhansk, one of two rebel-held cities in Eastern Ukraine. Rebels reportedly still control parts of Luhansk, but Ukrainian forces posted photos of the Ukrainian flag flying at a city police station.
— Euromaidan Press (@EuromaidanPress) August 16, 2014
This is the latest setback for the pro-Russia separatists who declared autonomous "people's republics" in Luhansk and Donetsk, 90 miles away, in April but have been steadily losing ground over the past month. In besieged Donetsk, separatist fighters are reportedly starting to dress in civilian clothes and carousing drunkenly around at night; three senior leaders of the separatist enclaves, all Russian nationals, have resigned or left the country over the past week.
Western officials and analysts are nervous about Russia's response to the separatists' dwindling fortunes. If Russian President Vladimir Putin believes "the rebels are about to get routed, we do have a problem," Eurasia Group analyst Cliff Kupchan tells The New York Times. Moscow's purportedly humanitarian convoy of 280 trucks is still on the Russia side of the border, and Russia maintains that it is not arming the rebels.
The new separatist prime minister of Donetsk, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said in a statement that Russia was sending him reinforcements, including 150 armored vehicles and 1,200 troops who'd spent the summer training in Russia, however. "They are joining at the most crucial moment," he added. And last Thursday night, reporters for Britain's The Telegraph said they witnessed "a column of armored vehicles and military trucks" crossing from Russian into a remote area near Donetsk; they call this "the first confirmed sighting of such an incident by Western journalists."
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers met Sunday in Berlin with their French and German counterparts for talks on ending the fighting and paving the way for the Russian aid to make its way into Ukraine. "It was a difficult discussion but I believe and I hope that we made progress on some points," said German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Peter Weber
The Solar Impulse made history on Friday when it landed without incident in Hawaii. Flying about 5,000 miles from Japan and spending 118 hours in the air, the Impulse set records in distance and time for manned, solar-powered flights. The pilots Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, who switch off flying legs, are on a quest to circumnavigate the globe. Next stop: New York. Read more at BBC News. Nico Lauricella
In a short televised address Friday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asked Greece to vote "no" on Sunday's bailout referendum. "I ask you to say no ultimatums, blackmail, and fear-mongering," he said. "No to divisions, no to those who want to spread panic." Polls show both sides neck-and-neck, and many Greeks are reportedly confused by the technical language of the referendum, which is over a bailout deal that is reportedly off the table. Tsipras tried to clear up the confusion, saying the vote is over a bad deal, "not Greece's participation in the euro." Read more at The New York Times. Nico Lauricella
A Jewish political action committee hired several Mexican day laborers to dress as Orthodox Jews and protest at the Gay Pride parade in New York City. After a reporter noticed that the men in Orthodox garb were clearly Hispanic, the Jewish Political Action Committee admitted it hired substitutes for its members "because of what they would see at the parade."
Nguyen Phu Trong will become the first leader of Vietnam's Communist Party to ever visit the United States when he meets with President Obama at the White House next week. They will reportedly discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement that would foster closer relations between the U.S., Vietnam, and 10 other Pacific Rim nations, as well as security concerns with China. The meeting is seen as a sign of growing ties between the two countries, and will mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations following the Vietnam War. Read more at AFP. Nico Lauricella
You can't erase history, but maybe you can paint it over? Golf champ Bubba Watson announced on Thursday that he'll swap the Confederate flag atop his General Lee, the iconic car from the TV show Dukes of Hazzard, for an American one. In 2012, he purchased the car used in the first episode of the TV show.
All men ARE created equal, I believe that so I will be painting the American flag over the roof of the General Lee #USA
— bubba watson (@bubbawatson) July 2, 2015
Watson's tweet comes on the heels of TV Land's announcement that it would stop airing Dukes of Hazzard reruns because of the prominence of the flag in the show. After the murders at Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina — allegedly by Dylann Roof, who has a history of white supremacy — the Confederate flag has been increasingly shunned. Nico Lauricella
Per the calculations of economist Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute, the Obama White House maintains a 15.8 percent wage gap, with women earning 84.2 cents for every dollar male staffers take home. Perry used the White House's self-reported salary data to tabulate this gap, which marks a slight decrease compared to last year's 17.9 percent. Still, it translates to an average of $12,350 less for female employees each year.
Perry argues that the disparity can be explained either by alleging the president participates in the wage discrimination he has so often decried — or by admitting that other factors, like "age, years of continuous work experience, education, differences in positions, hours worked, marital status, number of children, workplace environment and safety, industry differences, etc." may tend to give women lower average salaries than men.
A number of recent surveys have found that many women value flexible schedules and work-life balance more than high salaries, and women are also more likely to take significant time off work or even turn down promotions for child-rearing activities. Women gravitate toward low-paying college majors as well, while men dominate the more remunerative hard sciences. Bonnie Kristian
A new Rasmussen Reports poll finds that fully one third of likely voters say states should be able to ignore federal court decisions. A bare majority — 52 percent — disagrees, with 15 percent undecided. As recently as February, fewer than a quarter of likely voters said states should be able to disregard federal courts.
Not surprisingly — given conservative uproar over the recent Supreme Court decisions in favor of same-sex marriage and the president's health care program — Republicans were significantly more likely than average to endorse state overrides, offering 50 percent support. However, defiance of Washington rose among Democrats and independents as well in recent months. Bonnie Kristian