03/03/2014 03:28 GMT | Updated 03/03/2014 03:59 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: The New Cold War?

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SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE - MARCH 03: Heavily-armed troops displaying no identifying insignia and who were mingling with local pro-Russian militants stand guard outside a local government building on March 3, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. Police have removed roadblocks in the city center and access to the Crimean Parliament building is open again in signs that daily life is returning to a form of normalcy and that pro-Russian forces have cemented their control of the Crimean capital. Meanwhile world l

Here are the five things you need to know on Monday 3 March 2014...


Unsurprisingly, Ukraine, and the crisis in Crimea, dominates the front pages of the morning papers - the Independent splashes on a report from veteran foreign correspondent Kim Sengupta:

"They stood together with their arms linked: a priest, a former soldier, two housewives and a teacher, among the dozen women and men in front of a Ukrainian military base the Russian troops wanted to enter and disarm. The siege at Perevalne was an act of symbolic defiance against overwhelming might, as the Kremlin closed in on total control of Crimea. Ukraine’s acting Prime Minister described the country as being on the 'brink of disaster' while his government ordered the full mobilisation of its army in response to Russian military movements across the peninsula. Meanwhile the US Secretary of State John Kerry hit out at Russia’s 'incredible act of aggression.' Kiev had asked its forces in Crimea, numbering around 3,500 and facing up to 30,000 better-armed Russians, not to 'react to provocation'. It had denied suggestions that some senior officers welcomed Moscow’s intervention. But just hours later, Rear Admiral Denys Berezovsky, appointed in his post as head of the navy on Saturday, defected and pledged allegiance to the new pro-Russian administration in Crimea. The Ukrainian government announced that he would be tried for treason; but it was a humiliating blow."

But what options does the West have? Does the UK government have? Foreign secretary William Hague, speaking on the Today programme this morning, said that Russia should be "in no doubt, there would be costs [for Russia]. The world cannot just allow this to happen." Okay, but what can the world do, aside from sanctions and various other financial squeezes? What is the viable and tough diplomatic option on the table?


Boris Johnson is at his most provocative, and simplistic, in his Daily Telegraph column this morning - the BBC summarises the argument of the London mayor on radicalisation and child abuse:

"Muslim children who risk radicalisation by their parents should be taken into care, Boris Johnson has said. Writing in his weekly Daily Telegraph column, the London mayor said such children were victims of child abuse. Mr Johnson said they should be removed from their families to stop them being turned into 'potential killers or suicide bombers'. A 'fatal squeamishness' had developed over intervening in the behaviour of certain groups in society, he added. But he said there was a need to be 'stronger and clearer in asserting our understanding of British values'. He warned that some young people were being 'taught crazy stuff' similar to the views expressed by the two men who killed Fusilier Lee Rigby on a south-east London street."

Oh dear. Where to begin? Who defines this 'radicalisation'? Where's Johnson's evidence that it is going on in London homes? The mayor cites the killers of Lee Rigby - neither Michael Adebolajo nor Michael Adebowale were radicalised as kids; they were born into Christian homes and converted to Islam later in life. It is a bizarre, rambling column which mixes together Muslim radicalisation, paedophilia in the 1970s and female genital mutilation (FGM).


What do we want? Tax cuts. When do we want them? Now, now, now. From the Telegraph front page:

"George Osborne is being urged by senior Conservative MPs to ease the tax burden on millions of middle–class professionals being dragged into the 40p tax threshold in his Budget later this month. Tory backbenchers want the Chancellor to take action to prevent more families being forced to pay the higher rate. The Chancellor indicated in a meeting with backbenchers last week that he was considering raising the threshold at which workers start paying tax... However, senior Tories believe middle–class families need more help and that Mr Osborne should use his budget to raise the 40p tax threshold, with some saying it should increase from £41,450 to £44,000. They have warned Mr Osborne that people who "don't consider themselves even remotely privileged or rich" including police officers, senior nurses and teachers are being forced to pay the 40p rate... David Ruffley, a Conservative member of the Treasury select committee, said the move could prove a 'game changer' ahead of the election and ensure middleclass families share in the recovery."


If you haven't seen it, check out Bradley Cooper's selfie from the Oscars - it is now the most retweeted tweet/image in Twitter history, 2m retweets and counting...


Are the Edward Snowden revelations about the work of GCHQ and other UK spy agencies starting to have a political impact in the UK? Finally? Some good news on the front page of the Guardian, which has broken most of the surveillance stories so far:

"Labour will on Monday propose substantial changes to the oversight of the British intelligence agencies, including the legal framework under which they operate, in response to the revelations emerging from files leaked by Edward Snowden. The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, is preparing to argue that the current arrangements are unsustainable for the government, and that it is damaging to trust in the agencies if ministers continue to hide their heads in the sand. In a speech that represents Labour's most serious intervention since the controversy about the scale of state surveillance broke last summer, she will say: 'The oversight and legal frameworks are now out of date. In particular that means we need major reforms to oversight and a thorough review of the legal framework to keep up with changing technology.' Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister, by coincidence will also this week make a speech setting out his party's views on privacy and security."


Congratulations to Steve McQueen! From the Huffington Post UK:

"'12 Years A Slave' has triumphed at this year's Oscars, winning Best Film for producers Steve McQueen and Brad Pitt. The gruelling 19th century story of Solomon Northup, abducted and sold into slavery, also directed by McQueen, also won Oscars for Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong'o, and Adapted Screenplay for John Ridley."

McQueen, in his acceptance speech, paid tribute to the millions throughout history who had "endured slavery" and pointed out that there are an estimated 21 million people who still live in some form of slavery - that is, forced labour - even today, in 2014.


From yesterday's Sunday Times/YouGov poll:

Labour 38

Conservatives 34

Ukip 12

Lib Dems 9

That would give Labour a majority of 44.


John Harris, writing in the Guardian, says: "Whatever the result of Scotland's referendum, nothing will be the same."

Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "George Osborne or Boris Johnson? Let the battle begin."

Mary Dejevsky, writing in the Independent, says: "Nato ‘betrayal’ and Brussels rhetoric pushing Vladimir Putin to act."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol