Monday, August 22, 2016

Putin and Erdogan Meet, Russian Envy, and How Russian Parties Are Funded Monday August 22nd, 2016 at 10:29 AM

Putin and Erdogan Meet, Russian Envy, and How Russian Parties Are Funded

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In this week’s Western media highlights, Lilia Shevtsova argues in the Financial Times that despite upbeat rhetoric on both sides, Moscow’s hopes for a Turkish pivot to the East are essentially naive. And in his essay for Foreign Affairs, Gregory Feifer dissects Russia’s deep-rooted envy toward the West. Meanwhile, in the Russian media, experts discuss the funding issues of Russian political parties in light of the upcoming parliamentary elections, as well as the ways Russian people see the country’s future and their own.

The Soviet Union Died Long Before 1991 but Sovietism Remains Very Much Alive, Varlamov Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 22 – The 25thanniversary of the failed August 1991 coup has sparked much discussion about whether that event ended the Soviet Union or whether it ended before that date or after it, with many preferring to think that it ended either then or in December 1991 rather than anytime earlier.

            Many of those who say that, especially in the West, do so because they had invested so much in the existence of the USSR that they were not prepared to see it swept into the dustbin of history or because -- and these are especially numerous in the Putin camp -- they want to believe to this day that it was brought down suddenly, by accident or by conspiracy.

            But in fact, as many recognized at the time, the Soviet Union had entered its death throws much earlier and that it was only a question of time, however much its defenders at home or its facilitators abroad hoped otherwise, before it was going to pass from the scene. Many who pointed that out were marginalized then – and remain marginalized now.

            That makes a post by Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov especially valuable because he says quite correctly in the view of this author that while “officially” the USSR ceased to exist only on December 26, 1991, “in fact it had fallen apart much earlier” and that by at least the 1980s, it continued only because it was on life support (

            More than a decade before the August coup attempt, many understood, he writes, that “communism wasn’t going to be built and that in the form it then had, the country would not be able to last for long.” The failed war in Afghanistan, the fall in oil prices, and challenges from some republics had left it “in a coma.”

            “The doctors had already established brain death, but the inconsolable relatives insisted that the body be kept artificially alive.  In such a vegetative state, it could have been supported for years. Many think that [the Soviet system] died in 1991; Now, in 1991, it simply happened that the apparatus of artificial life support was turned off.” In December, the corpse was buried.

            Now, 25 years later, Varlamov says, “to [his] surprise, many nostalgic citizens are trying to exhume the body of [the Soviet system] and return it to life” out of the entirely mistaken believe that it was “a kind and just state” in which “the bread was more tasty, the water purer, the trees taller, and what is most important everyone feared us.”

Some Russian politicians play on this because it is relatively easy to get voters to cast their ballots “for a dream” however false.  Moreover, those of a certain age are entirely sincere in their nostalgia because “30 to 40 years ago, they wer young and happy, they lived a life without concern, and everything was good for them. Everything was simple and clear.”
            Today, such people are “old and sick” and their best times seem to them to have been in the past.  That may be a natural response, but it is not based on an honest assessment of the situation. Rather it reflects the fact that people with the passing of time remember the good but forget the bad.
            For him, Varlamov says, “Soviet power was the occupation of Russia, by one of the most bloody and inhuman regimes of the 20th century. Exploiting the weakness of the tsar, these occupiers seized power and for 69 years raped the country. They destroyed the peasantry, they destroyed the most entrepreneurial, and they destroyed the military, the clergy, and politicians.”
            And when they finished destroying “alien” elements, these occupiers then “began to devour their own.”  Tragically, as a result of all this, the Soviet system “metasticized” in present-day society and firmly holds us in its sharp claws.”
            Many blame the current approach of the residents of Russia on some kind of “’Russian mentality,’” Varlamov says; but in fact, what is on view is “not a Russian mentality. It is a Soviet mentality, of 69 years in which the occupiers transformed people into slaves without a will of their own.”
            “The main idea of the Soviet man was to serve his master,” the blogger continues. From childhood, those living under the Soviet occupiers were compelled to avoid thinking for themselves or distinguishing themselves from “the collective” and to assume that the bosses would decide everything and that their views were irrelevant.
            Those values continue to inform Sovietized Russians who instead of taking responsibility for themselves and working for their own interests continue to assume that the leader will take care of everything. And they have infected the younger generation which fails to see the connection between education and personal responsibility and its own future.
            Why should they study or work? Varlamov says they ask themselves. They “want to gete money but they don’t want to work. All this is an irresponsible infantile society, a canceorus continuity from Soviet times.  Thus, while the Soviet Union ceased to exist long before 1991, the Soviet mentality continues to this day.

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1991 Soviet coup 25th anniversary met with hostility, indifference in Russia

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MOSCOW — Russian pro-democracy activists gathered this weekend in central Moscow to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the defeat of a coup attempt by communist hard-liners enraged at Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms.
But the anniversary of the failed coup, and the tribute to the three young protesters who died ...

Iran chastises Russia for publicizing use of Iranian bases

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Iran's defense minister criticized Russia on Monday for having a "kind of show-off and ungentlemanly" attitude for publicizing that it used an Iranian air base to launch airstrikes on Syria, the first sign of government dissent over the unprecedented stationing of foreign troops in the Islamic Republic.

The Early Edition: August 22, 2016 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
The Kurdish YPG militia began a major offensive on the last government-held parts of the northeastern Syrian city of Hasaka today, after calling on regime forces to surrender, according to Kurdish forces and locals. [Reuters]
Russia has stopped using an Iranian air base to launch strikes on targets in Syria, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said today. [Reuters]  Iran’s defense minister has criticized Russia for its “show-off and ungentlemanly” attitude in publicizing its use of an Iranian airbase, reports Nasser Karimi at the AP.
Aleppo is the “emotional and strategic hinge” of the Syrian war, writes Geoff Dyer at the Financial Times. For the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian supporters, and for the rebels fighting there, Aleppo is the defining struggle in the broader war, and with over a million civilians still trapped there, the city represents the country’s most acute humanitarian crisis. It is also where the US’s approach to Syria – cautious military intervention mixed with diplomacy – has been stretched close to breaking point, writes Dyer.
Iraq executed 36 men convicted and sentenced to death for taking part in the Islamic State’s murder of around 1,700 Shiite military personnel in 2014, on Sunday. The massacre took place at the Camp Speicher air base close to Saddam Hussein’s hometown, Tikrit. Omar al-Jawoshy and Tim Arango report for the New York Times
A child of between 12 and 14 detonated a bomb at a wedding in southeastern Turkey on Saturday, killing 51 guests and wounding 69 others, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said. There were “strong indications” that the Islamic State was responsible for the attack, he said. [Hürriyet Daily News] National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price condemned the attack in a statementreleased yesterday. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences via a telegram to President Erdoğan on Sunday, also conveying Russia’s preparedness to increase counterterrorism cooperation with Turkey, including following through on agreements reached during their recent talks in Russia. [AP]
The Islamic State has a history of using children as weapons, reports the AP. The terror group maintains an army of child soldiers it calls “cubs of the caliphate,” and educates children at its own schools, the program involving exposure to violent acts such as beheadings, and indoctrination with the Islamic State’s own brand of Islam.
None of the evidence provided by Turkey in its request for US extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen relates to the July 15 coup attempt, a senior administration official said at the end of last week. The evidence provided relates only to his alleged activities beforehand. Turkey’s request is currently being examined by the Justice Department, reports Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post.
Russian and Saudi Arabian officials met yesterday to discuss ceasefires in Syria and Yemen and the consolidation of efforts in the fight against terrorism, announced Russia’s Foreign Ministry. [Interfax]
Russia’s ability to use its status as a Eurasian power to advance its foreign policy goals has gone almost unnoticed by Western policymakers, Luke Coffey writes for Al Jazeera, citing three recent actions, Russia’s firing cruise missiles at Syria from ships in the Caspian Sea, using an Iranian airbase to carry out airstrikes in Syria, and carrying out the first ever training exercises along NATO’s border by the Collective Security Treaty group of states – a Moscow-led organization including Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
China held war games in the Sea of Japan last week, during which it displayed its latest-generation frigate. [AP’s Christopher Bodeen]
Foreign ministers from China, Japan and South Korea are to meet in Tokyo this week to discuss cooperation, with Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida due to hold a dinner for his Chinese and South Korean counterparts Tuesday, followed by the first trilateral meeting Wednesday. [Reuters]
Christopher Bodeen at the AP provides a look at recent key developments in China’s territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors in the South China Sea region.
Israel carried out a series of airstrikes targeting Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip late yesterday, in response to a Palestinian rocket attack that hit an Israeli border town earlier in the day, reports theAP.  The Israeli response was “unusually strong” and involved dozens of strikes, writes Peter Beaumont at the Guardian.
Israel has been accused of orchestrating a “very organized and advanced campaign” of threats and intimidation against Palestinian human rights defenders who hold it accountable for human rights violations against Palestinians, reports Jillian Kestler-D’Amours for Al Jazeera. Israel’s goal is to stop them from dealing actively with the International Criminal Court, according to Shawan Jabarin, director of Al Haq, a prominent Ramallah-based Palestinian human rights organization.
A slim majority of both Israelis and Palestinians support a peace settlement establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel, despite the years of conflict, a recent poll suggests. The poll may provide a small sign of encouragement amid bleak prospects for peace, suggests Josef Federman at the AP. The last round of peace negotiations broke down two years ago.
UN-backed Libyan forces in Sirte have gained ground against the Islamic Statereclaiming the city’s main mosque and a prison that was being used by the Islamists’ “morality police,” reports Reuters. The forces say they are close to retaking the city.
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kenya yesterday to hold talks with President Uhuru Kenyatta expected to focus on regional security and extremismreports the AP. The discussions are anticipated to cover stabilizing neighboring South Sudan, as well as developments in Somalia and Burundi.
Ahmad al-Mahdi has pleaded guilty to the destruction of religious monuments in the ancient city of Timbuktu in 2012 at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. His trial is the first to cite the destruction of cultural artifacts as a war crime, and Madhi is the first defendant accused of war crimes at the ICC to enter a guilty plea, saying he was doing so “with deep regret and pain” and advising Muslims around the world not to commit similar acts. [The Guardian’s Ruth Maclean]
The Taliban seized an Afghan government-controlled district in northern Kunduz province on Saturday, cutting off access to two main highways leading to the provincial capital, officials said. [AP’s Sayed Salahuddin]
Extremist Islamist prisoners in the UK will be put in special units to keep them from influencing other inmates, reports the BBC. A recent report found there was “complacency” at the “growing problem” of radicalization in jails in the UK.
Pakistani security forces killed six people in clashes with “terrorists” in the Khyber region close to the Afghan border, Pakistan’s military said late last night. Reuters’ Asad Hashim reports.
A suicide bomb in the Somali town of Galkayo killed at least 20 people on Sunday, report Jeffrey Gettleman and Hussein Mohamed at the New York Times. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The US and South Korea began annual military drills today despite threats of nuclear strikes from North Korea, reports Hyung-Jin Kim at the AP.
Anjem Choudary, linked to the recruitment of 500 British jihadists fighting in Syria, was sentenced to ten years in a British prison last week. The “evil clown” who called for Queen Elizabeth to be forced to wear a burqa and for an Islamic State flag to be hoisted over 10 Downing Street used his “jester brand” to conceal an incredibly nefarious network, writes former fellow Islamist Maajid Nawaz at theDaily Beast.
Read on Just Security »
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Study shows probation may be answer to incarceration costs reduction - Standard Speaker

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Study shows probation may be answer to incarceration costs reduction
Standard Speaker
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I look forward to reviewing the legislative recommendations that will result from this in-depth examination of our prison programs and policies.” The corrections' percentage of the state budget has been ...

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FBI Said to Probe Ukraine Corruption With Possible Manafort Link - Newsmax

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FBI Said to Probe Ukraine Corruption With Possible Manafort Link
The FBI is aiding an investigation by Ukraine into possible corruption by its former president, a probe that includes a company controlled by Donald Trump's ex-campaign chief Paul Manafort, according to a U.S. official. The assistance, which is a joint ...
FBI, DOJ launch Probe into Firm of John PodestaBreitbart News
FBI probing possible US ties to corruption involving former Ukrainian gov'tFox News Latino
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all 179 news articles »

Ayatollah shoots down Putin’s high-flying Tupolev

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August 22, 2016, 3:51 PM (IDT)
Monday, Aug. 22, just a week after the Russian defense ministry proudly released images of the first Russian bombardments in Syria to be launched from Nojeh airbase, which Tehran had granted Moscow near the Iranian town of Hamedan, the Iranian defense ministry snatched the concession back in a public rebuff for Moscow. The Russian mission “is finished  for now,” the ministry spokesman said.

Russian Raids From Iran Finished for Now, Tehran Says

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Tehran says Russia could again use Iranian bases to carry out airstrikes in Syria if circumstances require it and Iran allows it.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Fires ‘Thousands’ of Government Officials 

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Sunday that he would be sacking every member of his administration who was appointed by a previous President. The move — the latest in what Duterte calls a campaign against corruption — is one of several that have left critics troubled over what they say is an excessive wielding of executive power.
“Until now, in my provincial visits, I still hear that corruption is being committed,” he said in a long press conference in the earliest hours of Sunday morning, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer.“My mouth is, as they say, lousy. If you are there because of a presidential appointment, I will declare all your positions, all throughout the country, vacant.”
As for the number of government employees to be sacked: “It will number in the thousands.”
Duterte, formerly the tough-on-crime mayor of the city of Davao, has long been known as a bombastic firebrand, but in the less than two months since he was inaugurated as President of the Southeast Asian nation, many there have expressed concern over what that zeal means at the level of federal politics. He has in recent weeks threatened to impose “martial law” if the country’s judiciary infringes upon his campaign to eradicate drugs from the country — an exercise that has left hundreds dead.
The U.N. has condemned the “war on drugs” as a human-rights violation, prompting Duterte to publicly venture that he may pull the country from the organization.
“I do not want to insult you. But maybe we’ll just have to decide to separate from the United Nations,” he said on Sunday, according to al-Jazeera. He continued: “You know, United Nations, if you can say one bad thing about me, I can give you 10 [about you].”
He then said he did not “give a sh-t” about the consequences of his remarks.

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Russia Stops Using Iran Base to Launch Syria Airstrikes

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(TEHRAN, Iran) — Russia has stopped using an Iranian air base for launching airstrikes on Syria for the time being, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said Monday, just hours after the Iranian defense minister criticized Moscow for having “kind of show-off and ungentlemanly” attitude by publicizing their actions.
There was no immediate response from Moscow, which had used the Shahid Nojeh Air Base to refuel its bombers striking Syria at least three times last week.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters in Tehran that the Russian airstrikes on militants in Syria were “temporary, based on a Russian request.”
“It is finished, for now,” Ghasemi said, without elaborating.
Last week, Russia announced it used the airfield, located some 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the Iranian city of Hamedan. Iranian officials only confirmed Russia’s presence a day later.
Earlier Monday, state TV quoted Iran’s defense minister as saying that Russia “will use the base for a very short and fixed span.” The comments by Gen. Hossein Dehghan came after he chastised parliament this weekend for asking questions about Russia using the base.
Responding to a question about why Iran didn’t initially announce Russia’s presence at the airfield, Dehghan appeared prickly on the state TV broadcast.
“Russians are interested to show they are a superpower to guarantee their share in political future of Syria and, of course, there has been a kind of show-off and ungentlemanly (attitude) in this field,” he said.
His remarks also suggest Russia and Iran initially agreed to keep Moscow’s use of the air base quiet. Its announcement likely worried Iran’s Sunni-ruled Mideast neighbors, which host American military personnel.
For Iran, allowing Russia to launch strikes from inside the country is likely to prove unpopular. Many still remember how Russia, alongside Britain, invaded and occupied Iran during World War II to secure oil fields and Allied supply lines. But while Britain withdrew, Russia refused to leave, sparking the first international rebuke by the nascent United Nations Security Council in 1946.
Analysts have suggested Russia potentially leveraged Iran into allowing it to use the airfield over either economic or military interests, such as Tehran wanting to purchase Sukhoi-30 fighter jets or its deployment of Russian S-300 air defense missile systems. Russia initially held off on supplying the missile system to Tehran amid negotiations over Iran’s contested nuclear program.
Over the weekend, photographs of President Hassan Rouhani were published in Iranian state media near a Bavar-373 missile defense system. That system is designed to be the local equivalent of the S-300 — perhaps an Iranian signal back to Moscow that it’s capable of defending itself without the Russian missile system.
In his comments, Dehghan said the Bavar-373 can hit targets at the height of 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) — the same height the S-300 can reach.
“When we make Bavar-373 operational, we will not need to purchase another high-altitude and long-range air defense system,” he said.
Dehghan added that Iran still sees the Sukhoi-30 as “an appropriate fighting aircraft,” though he acknowledged the U.S. could seek to block any fighter jet deal. The U.N. resolution enshrining last year’s nuclear deal with Iran prohibits the supply, sale and transfer of combat aircraft to Iran unless approved in advance by the Security Council.
“The issue of purchasing the fighters has been raised and we have not heard any negative answer,” he said. “We are negotiating to learn how we can do this with the restriction that can be raised for the Russians.”
Meanwhile, fighting continued Monday in Syria. In the northern Syrian city of Hasakeh, clashes again erupted between Kurdish fighters and pro-government militias, according to the Kurdish Hawar News Agency. The government and the Kurdish movement have shared control of the city since the early years of the Syrian civil war.
Syrian government planes bombed Kurdish positions in Hasakeh last week as the struggle for predominance in the city escalated.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.

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Tensions mount between Russia and Ukraine following 'terror incident' - Washington Post

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Washington Post

Tensions mount between Russia and Ukraine following 'terror incident'
Washington Post
KIEV – By any standards, the drumbeat of growing tensions between Russia and Ukraine this month has been especially ominous. It began as Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Kiev of embracing the “tactics of terror,” after Russia claimed to have ... 
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Donald Trump is finally raising money. So why isn't he spending it? - Washington Post

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Washington Post

Donald Trump is finally raising money. So why isn't he spending it?
Washington Post
Last month, Donald Trump finally appeared to be on par with Hillary Clinton in fundraising — a sign that he would have the resources to compete with her on the ground and in the air in the last stretch of the White House contest. But new Federal ... 
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Mexican president Pena Nieto plagiarized law thesis, report says

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto plagiarized nearly a third of his 1991 undergraduate law thesis, according to a report published on Sunday by one of Mexico's leading investigative journalists.

Iran says Russian use of air base for Syria strikes over 'for now'

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Monday that Russia has stopped using an Iranian air base for strikes in Syria, a week after Moscow announced that its fighter bombers had flown from a base in Iran to hit targets in Syria.

Militarily neutral Finland in talks with U.S. on closer defense collaboration; minister

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland, which has a long land border with Russia and maintained strict neutrality through the Cold War, is negotiating a defense collaboration agreement with the United States and aims to sign it this autumn, its defense minister said on Monday.

Iran Criticizes Russia For Publicizing Use Of Air Bases

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Iran's defense minister has criticized Russia for publicizing its use of Iranian bases for attacks in Syria, saying it was "kind of show off and ungentlemanly."

The Daily Vertical: Putin Unbound (Transcript)

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We're about to learn where Vladimir Putin really wants to take Russia.

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Austrian High Court Rejects Ukrainian Firtash's Extradition Appeal

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Austria's Constitutional Court has refused to consider an appeal by Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash in an attempt to fight his extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on corruption charges.
Firtash had petitioned the court to recognize the U.S.-Austrian extradition agreement as unconstitutional.
The court's rejection of his case, reported by Deutsche Welle on August 19, allows an appeal by the Vienna prosecutor's office of a court ruling prohibiting Firtash from being extradited to the United States to be considered.
U.S. officials are seeking Firtash's extradition in the case of some $18.5 million in bribes being paid for a permit to mine titanium in India.
Firtash, 51, is a co-owner along with Gazprom of RosUkrEnergo, a Swiss-registered company that exports natural gas from Turkmenistan to Eastern Europe.
He also controls a large part of the titanium business in Ukraine and is one of that country's richest men.
Austrian officials arrested Firtash at the request of U.S. law enforcement agencies in March 2014.
He was released from detention shortly afterwards when he posted bail of 125 million euros ($172 million), a record amount in Austria.
Firtash rejects the charges against him as "absurd and unfounded."
Based on reporting by Interfax-Ukraine,, and Deutsche Welle

The Morning Vertical, August 22, 2016

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This week, on August 24, Ukraine celebrates a milestone -- a quarter-century of independence. And this week, fears of a fresh Russian offensive against Ukraine are at their highest levels in years.
This is probably not an accident. As I note on today's Power Vertical Briefing (featured below), the very idea of an independent Ukraine is offensive to Vladimir Putin.
Ukraine is Russia's road not taken. It has truly competitive elections, a pluralistic elite, and a vibrant civil society. And since the Euromaidan revolution, it has been trying with mixed results to take the next crucial step -- moving from oligarchic pluralism to the real thing. It's an alternative model of governance that is threatening to Putin, and he feels compelled to crush it.
And for that reason, Ukraine's independence celebrations this week will be tense indeed.
On today's Power Vertical Briefing, we discuss the rising tensions between Moscow and Kyiv, which come as Ukraine prepares to mark 25 years of independence.
In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast, All The President's Men, looks at Vladimir Putin's culling of his inner circle and what it portends. Joining me are co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Czech Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and Andrei Soldatov, editor in chief of the investigative website and co-author of the books Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators And The New Online Revolutionaries and The New Nobility: The Restoration Of Russia's Security State And The Enduring Legacy Of The KGB.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry says Russia’s use of a military base in Hamadan for striking targets in Syria has ended for now.
Russian authorities are investigating an attack on journalist Yulia Latynina in which the prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin was doused with fecal matter by an unidentified assailant.
The Ukrainian military and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine continue to accuse each other of violating a cease-fire agreement.
Austria's Constitutional Court has refused to consider an appeal by Ukrainian businessman Dmytro Firtash in an attempt to fight his extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on corruption charges.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reassured his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, that Ankara will continue to recognize the Crimean Peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia, as Ukrainian territory.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden urged both Russia and Ukraine to show restraint one day after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warned he could not rule out "a full-scale Russian invasion."
According to a poll by the Levada Center, nearly a quarter of Russians would be prepared to sell their votes in next month's State Duma elections.
Russian media is reporting that opposition figure Aleksei Navalny is seeking ways to run for president in 2018.
Remembering August 1991
Prominent Russian journalist Sergey Parkhomenko has a piece up on the Kennan Institute's Russia Files blog recalling the events of August 19-21, 1991.
And in Vedomosti, Oleg Ozherlyev, who served as an aide to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, speculates about what Russia might look like today if the August 1991 coup attempt never happened.
The Kremlin's Election Dilemma
Sergei Orlov has a piece on Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall web portal on the dilemma facing the Kremlin in next month's elections.
"The Kremlin loudly trumpets its wish to see free and fair elections this September, but it needs to come up with a public strategy, which ensures that the desired result keeps the courtiers in place while at the same time observing all the external proprieties," Orlov writes.
The Crimea Incident
Writing in, Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov unpacks the so-called "Crimea incident" and Russia's recent saber-rattling with Ukraine.
"Russia wants to solve the 'Ukrainian issue' through negotiations, not on the battlefield. But it wants to resolve it directly with the West, without Ukraine's participation," Frolov writes.
"Moscow is presenting the West with an ultimatum -- either you provide a 'Minsk-2' right now and over Poroshenko's head, or Russia has a free hand -- and everything is possible."
Death Of A Mobster
Writing on his blog, Mark Galeotti examines the recent killing of Azerbaijani-born mob boss Rovshan Janiev, also known as Rovshan Lenkoransky.
"What made Janiev interesting is that around him cohered a loose coalition of hungry young and youngish gangsters, who felt the relative stability of the post-'90s status quo -- and the end of the rapid social mobility caused by periodic turf wars and gangland killings -- was locking them out of the big time," Galeotti writes.
The 1999 Apartment Bombings
Writing in The National Review, veteran Kremlin-watcher David Satter -- a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and author of the recently published book The Less You Know, The Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road To Terror And Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin -- looks back at the 1999 apartment bombings that helped bring Putin to power.
"I believe that Vladimir Putin came to power as the result of an act of terror committed against his own people," Satter writes. 
"The evidence is overwhelming that the apartment-house bombings in 1999 in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk, which provided a pretext for the second Chechen war and catapulted Putin into the presidency, were carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Yet, to this day, an indifferent world has made little attempt to grasp the significance of what was the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag."
Russia's Opposition Is Dying -- Literally
Moscow-based journalist Andrew Kramer has a piece in The New York Times on how many of the Kremlin's opponents keep winding up dead.
Ukraine And August 1991
Don't miss the latest edition of Hromadske Radio's Ukraine Calling Podcast. Host Marta Dyczok and her guests look at the failed hard-line coup of August 1991 from Ukraine's perspective.
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Top US commander warns Russia, Syria - CNN

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Top US commander warns Russia, Syria
(CNN) In the most direct public warning to Moscow and Damascus to date, the new US commander of American troops in Iraq and Syria is vowing to defend US special operations forces in northern Syria if regime warplanes and artillery again attack in areas ... 
'We will defend ourselves if we feel threatened': Top commander warns Russia that US will fight back after attack ...Daily Mail

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Why Russia, the 'gas station masquerading as a country', may have more upside - CNBC

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Why Russia, the 'gas station masquerading as a country', may have more upside
Russian equities have enjoyed a major rally this year, with the Moscow Exchange index recently hitting an all-time high, and the popular Russia-tracking exchange traded fund (ETF) RSX surging over 27 percent. However, even after a great few months ...

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Promised prosperity never arrived in Russian-held Crimea, locals say - Reuters

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Promised prosperity never arrived in Russian-held Crimea, locals say
The sunny and mountainous Black Sea peninsula is back in the news, with Russian President Vladimir Putin accusing Kiev of sending infiltrators across the border to wreck its industry. But locals say the damage has already been done by Moscow's neglect.

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Putin’s New Totalitarianism Relies on ‘Targeted Repression and Mass Manipulation,’ Gudkov Says

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 21 – Unlike classical totalitarian rulers who relied on “total terror and mass repressions,” Lev Gudkov says, Vladimir Putin relies on a “new technology of rule,” one based on the assumption that “targeted prophylactic repressions and the manipulation of mass consciousness” are all he needs.

            The Levada Center director draws that conclusion on the basis of his work as a pollster who has found that the Putin regime doesn’t manipulate the population so much by direct propaganda as by creating “an atmosphere of indefiniteness … discrediting other points of view and only then giving its own interpretation” via television (

            The reason the Kremlin leader can do so, Gudkov continues, is that Russians rely on television for their views on issues beyond their immediate experience and are not inclined to turn to alternative channels of information like the Internet for alternative points of view.  The regime via television provides what answers they think they need.

            In Russia’s situation, the Internet never had the chance to become an alternative source because “unlike the structured audience of television, the Internet does not do this and cannot do this.” It is multiple rather than single both in audience and in views.  But more important, he says, the Kremlin has “learned to work on the net both through a system of trolls and through its own sites.”

            These “simulacra,” in fact GONGOs (“government-organized non-governmental organizations”), consistently “discredit channels of information and sources of authority which are independent from the powers that be by presenting them as the opinion of a minority, extremists, ‘a fifth column,’ national traitors and renegades.”

            In Moscow, Gudkov says, there are “approximately 15 to 18 sources of information” individuals can turn to, while “in small cities and villages there are only two or three.” But only federal television can “create political reality because local channels treat [only] local events, while world and political news comes from the propaganda machine.”

            Gudkov says that what Putin is doing constitutes “a new technology of rule. Unlike classical forms of totalitarianism, total terror and mass repressions are not required. Instead, targeted prophylactic repressions and the manipulation of consciousness are quite enough.”

            The sociologist continues with the observation that “many political analysts and journalists draw the false conclusion that people in general have their own opinion but they are afraid to express it.” In fact, their conformism reflects only fear but not “the existence of dissent or the presence of other ideas.”

            Such alternative ideas, he says, “can appear only in the presence of other channels of information and institutions of socialization, of other unofficial mechanisms of world view and the formation of personal identity.” The Soviet system largely wiped these out, and Russians have not yet recovered from that experience. One generation is not enough.

            What one sees in Russia today, he says, is “a mechanism of mass consciousness characteristic of a repressive state.” People have learned not to have their own opinions and consequently the collective opinion presented by television becomes their point of view by default.

                In the course of the interview, Gudkov makes three other important points:  First, he says, there are no elites in Russia.  Instead, there are those in power and  those without; but the difference between them in terms of ideas is small or even non-existent, as research by Valeria Kasamara of the Higher School of Economics has found.

            Second, there is a very low level of trust among Russians, something that precludes the kind of formation of solidarity necessary for the autonomous functioning of society and that makes Russians more susceptible to influence by television and to being manipulated in their opinions by it.

            And third, while morality and patriotism are similar in their structures, they are in fact antipodes because the former requires “subjective motivation,” something that can’t be ordered from above however much people say, while the latter is a phenomenon the state can organize and use as the basis for its own power.

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Putin’s New Totalitarianism Relies on ‘Targeted Repression and Mass Manipulation,’ Gudkov Says 

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Low Wages, High Prices: Crimeans Suffer Under Russia - Newsweek

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Low Wages, High Prices: Crimeans Suffer Under Russia
More than two years after Russia annexed Crimea and promised its 2 million people a better life, residents say prices have soared, wages and pensions have stagnated and tourists have fled. The sunny and mountainous Black Sea peninsula is back in the ...
Crimea, Georgia and the New Olympic Sport - Russia BashingPravda
US Tells Ukraine to Stop Searching for 'Russian Unicorn'Sputnik International
Merkel sees no end to EU sanctions against RussiaReuters

all 44 news articles »

Prince death: Powerful drugs found in singer's home 'were mislabelled'

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Pills seized from the home of singer Prince contained the dangerously powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl but were mislabelled, according to reports.

New York Values 

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If New York City had guided the country, America probably would not have rebelled against King George III. For that matter, if New York had set the national tone, the North probably would not have fought the Civil War and the South would have been allowed to secede into the Confederacy. At least since the early 1900s, when New York overtook Boston as the nation’s largest cultural center, the city has prided itself on being the Great Metropolis of America. But in truth, New York has never marched comfortably alongside the rest of the country. The Pied Piper of Manhattan has never managed to make much of America follow.
Just look at Revolution on the Hudson, the latest historical study from the prolific naval historian George C. Daughan. The book was begun, its author suggests, as an attempt to explain what everyone who studies sea power knows: the fact that Britain should have crushed the American revolutionaries. The Royal Navy was overwhelmingly large, generally competent, and usually able to deliver British troops and firepower wherever they were most needed. So how did the British manage to turn a brief little colonial war into a major defeat in battles from Lexington and Concord in 1775 to Cornwallis’ surrender in 1781?
The usual answers involve the French and the fact that, large as it was compared to the nascent American forces, King George’s military was spread too thin by the global commitments of Britain. But Daughan insists we look first at the disastrous British strategy in the early years of the war.
The British defeat, Daughan writes, begins with the military planners in London who thought they could win the war cheaply and quickly with one grand stroke. The strategy first involved seizing New York City as the main British base. The British intended then to grind their way up the Hudson River Valley to Albany, where they would meet a second major British army forcing its way down from Canada. The closing of this Hudson River corridor would isolate New England from the rest of the colonies, strangling Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island into submission and allowing the army to topple the remaining central and southern colonies one by one, like dominos.
As a strategy, it was at least wishful if not outright crazy. Curiously, the Americans accepted the premise that a key to the war was the Hudson River Valley, and Washington fought hard to resist the British plan. His defeat at the Battle of Long Island forced a retreat to Manhattan, which he could not hold despite his minor victory at Harlem Heights. The loss of Fort Lee and his defeat at the Battle of White Plains convinced Washington that he could not threaten New York directly, and he retreated to New Jersey and Pennsylvania at the end of 1776.
The British failed to capitalize on their victory, and Revolution on the Hudson is relentless in chronicling the tinkering, incompetence, backbiting, fearfulness, and rivalries that ruined the campaign. But, Daughan contends, the plan was ridiculous from the beginning. The technology and military presence necessary to seal off New England simply didn’t exist, and a few thousand British soldiers were not going to be able to accomplish it, even if they had been led by someone more skillful than General Burgoyne.
Meanwhile, however, New York City remained in British control until the end of 1783, and it became the largest and most important stronghold for Loyalists. Despite the city’s hosting of the 1765 “Stamp Act Congress,” the first organized resistance to the crown, New York was not a rabidly revolutionary town, never matching Massachusetts and Virginia in anger against Britain. The Loyalists who gathered there during the war were met by a population that was generally meliorist, hoping to ease oppressive treatment while remaining loyal to the king. Although it’s not Daughan’s major point,Revolution on the Hudson demonstrates that, from its earliest moments in the American republic, New York was different from the rest of the nation.
A curious pattern emerges if readers jump from Daughan’s account of the Revolution to John Strausbaugh’s City of Sedition: The History of New York City During the Civil War. Strausbaugh is more a cultural commentator than an academic historian, but his 2013 The Village, a broad history of Greenwich Village, demonstrated his love of New York topics. In City of Sedition he proves willing to face squarely what many lovers of New York turn away from: the city’s shameful behavior during the Civil War.
Not that City of Sedition is a complete history. Maddeningly episodic, dancing back and forth through the years, the book is a delightful read in some ways and a bothersome text in others. The material on Walt Whitman and Herman Melville feels unoriginal, the tale of John Wilkes Booth and his famous actor relative Edwin Booth is old news, and the account of the Draft Riots of 1863 has all been collected from secondary sources.
But Strausbaugh’s tale of Major General Dan Sickles, a New York politician turned glory-seeking soldier, is worth the price of admission. Sickles is the man who in 1859 killed his wife’s lover—Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key—and then escaped a guilty verdict with the previously novel defense of temporary insanity. And Sickles is the man who lost a leg at Gettysburg and almost lost the battle when he refused to follow orders for deploying his troops. Sickles is even the man who, in the weeks before he left to join his troops, ran up one of the largest known debts at Delmonico’s restaurant—and then blithely signed the bill as a recruitment expense, charging the whole amount to the government.
Along the way, City of Sedition shows how quickly New York turned against the war. Initial enthusiasm had helped deliver the state’s electoral votes to Lincoln, and the Brooklyn Zouaves and other New York regiments marched off to join the newly formed Northern forces. The 1861 defeat at Bull Run disabused them of the notion that the Union could be preserved quickly and easily, and New York began to remember how much of its economy depended on Southern cotton.
Just as the Loyalists gathered in New York during the Revolutionary War, so the Copperheads, Northern supporters of the South, looked to New York during the Civil War. The large immigrant populations, especially the Irish, couldn’t understand why they should fight for a Union that barely accepted them, and Tammany Hall used their discontent to ensure its power. Meanwhile, what Strausbaugh calls a “shoddy aristocracy” began to emerge, as government contractors grew rich on shady deals, oppressed workers, and inferior products.
The flashpoint was the draft, which excluded blacks and allowed the wealthy to avoid military service by paying $300 (approximately half a working man’s annual wages). The combination proved too much for the poor of New York, and in July of 1863, during the official draft enrollment week, they rioted—shooting at free blacks and wealthy whites with equal abandon. By the time they were finished, at least 117 people were dead. Most historians think that officially announced figure is much too low, but even if we accept it, the New York Draft Riot killed more people than any other civil riot in the history of the nation.
Subsequent martial law did little to salve New York’s Copperhead feeling, and Tammany Hall would use ethnic tensions created by the Civil War to claim political power in the city for another century. Perhaps more to the point, after the war, the disgust of the rest of the nation at New York’s Southern sympathizing, when contrasted with the moral stature granted Massachusetts by its long history of abolitionism, ensured that Boston would remain the cultural center of the nation for the rest of the 1800s.
During the Iowa caucuses this year, Ted Cruz was roundly attacked when he mocked Donald Trump for having “New York Values.” And maybe Cruz’s critics were right to remind him of New York’s long history of conservatism and contributions to the Republican cause. But, as Revolution on the Hudsonand City of Sedition remind us, New York City has often been a little different from the rest of the nation. A little out of step. A little wrong at moments when it needed to be right.
The post New York Values appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
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The New Russian Empire 

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Russia’s annexation of Crimea in early March 2014 and subsequent confrontational policies in the Middle East and parts of Europe have spawned myriad debates assessing Vladimir Putin’s ambitions and their implications for global security. Many of these discussions conclude that Russia seeks little more than a revival of Soviet-era influence in the near abroad–that is, nations bordering Russia.
Agnia Grigas takes a different tack in her informative and well-researched work. Seeing Putin’s Russia as a “challenger rather than partner with the West,” Grigas states that the “central argument of this book is that … there has been an increasing tendency in Russian foreign policy toward reimperialization of the post-Soviet space … to gradually rebuild its historic empire.”
Russia began this process in the early part of the last decade at Putin’s direction, she concludes, accomplishing this through exploitation of “compatriots,” composed of the tens of millions of ethnic Russians living outside Russia’s borders and non-ethnic Russians who speak Russian and identify with Russian culture.
For Grigas, the existence of these groups serves as a “pretext for and instrument of” Russia’s expansionist policies. Her argument is convincing. Russia’s compatriot policies have raised tensions in in what is now the post-Soviet space of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Armenia. In this “near abroad,” Russia’s influence is considerable, though far from absolute. In support of its goals, the Russian government may employ various tactics from one target nation to another—but in the main, it almost always offers Russian passports to compatriots as a way to foster identity with Russia, and directs a constant stream of propaganda at compatriots touting Russian cultural superiority while asserting that other nations will do nothing to protect ethnic Russians.
To date, Crimea is the only case where these forms of soft power culminated in direct annexation. That should be little comfort to the West: Transnistria as well as Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia are planted firmly in a Russian orbit, as are Luhansk and Donetsk in Ukraine. These regions represent frozen conflicts where overt military hostilities may not be present but political tensions remain, and those regions have been removed, de facto, from control by national governments.
The author also is convincing in her assessment that the West has failed to comprehend or develop policies to rebut Russia’s continuing overtures in its near abroad. As a result, there is little reason to believe Putin, in surveying the geostrategic landscape, will feel compelled to moderate his attempts at reimperialization.
Grigas sees as one of the biggest dangers possible confrontation in the Baltics, where Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, once part of the USSR, are now NATO members. Even with such substantial concerns–including the belief that Russia’s reimperialization has such deep roots that it will outlast Putin—Grigas concludes that the costs of “empire” could become prohibitive for Russia in the long-term. Moreover, she outlines a series of Western policy options, most notably “information alternatives” to Russian propaganda in order to counter the reach of news outlets such as Russia Today.
Grigas has produced a clear-eyed assessment of Russia’s regional goals that merits close reading by whoever takes responsibility for Russia policy in the next White House.
The post The New Russian Empire appeared first on Washington Free Beacon.
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In Defense of Herbert Hoover 

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Herbert Hoover has gotten a bum rap. If he is not being conflated with a vacuum cleaner magnate or the first director of the FBI, chances are our 31st president is recalled as a synecdoche for the Great Depression, an event over which he ably presided, but did not—and could not—bring to an end. Assessed poorly by political scientists, ignored by historians in favor of more exciting fare, and painted as a fool by partisan journalists, even-handed political biographies on Hoover are a treat; but well-written, steely-eyed assessments of the man are a gift, and this is what one receives in Charles Rappleye’s Herbert Hoover in the White House: The Ordeal of the Presidency.
To get a better sense of Hoover’s fall, it is helpful to remember the awesome domestic—and global—reputation he enjoyed prior to his time in the White House. Born into penury, Hoover graduated from Stanford, earned a fortune as a miner, headed up major humanitarian relief efforts during World War I, and them went on to become secretary of commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge. A man of unbridled but painstakingly hidden (at least he thought so) ambition, Hoover’s early taste of public adoration whetted an appetite for the presidency. When Coolidge declined a second term, Hoover was there, with little prodding, to take up the mantle.
Coming into the White House, the man whom the newspapers referred to as “Secretary of Everything” had reason to be confident, and the success of the Roaring Twenties provided evidence for his expectations. Politically, the country’s mood matched the Hooverian philosophy, outlined in an early work of his, American Individualism. When the crash struck and the depression settled in, this same common-sense philosophy extolling hard work and independence from the government dole would prove to be major blind spots in Hoover’s ability to guide the country—and public perception of his governing ability—to a favorable destination.
As one might expect, Rappleye spends the majority of his book on Hoover’s domestic operations and his handling of the economic calamity. He does an excellent job tracing the manifold causes of the depression, all the while explaining, in layman’s terms, the complexity of the phenomena. And while economists may still debate whether Hoover’s approaches to the Fed, the Farm Board, foreign debt, or the Reconstruction Finance Corporation were clear-sighted, all surveyors of his White House years seem to agree on one thing: the humanitarian Hoover was painfully maladroit when it came to conveying much needed empathy during one of the worst crises in American history.
Hoover, perhaps like many politicians, was mercurial but needy. Beneath what the press came to believe was a hard, disdainful exterior was a man who cared deeply about the sufferings of Americans. What Hoover lacked, and what he never cultivated, was a warm relationship with the media, once exclaiming, “They have no respect for the office I hold.” With few words ever emanating from the White House on policy matters, the media was left to their speculations, and, given the dark mood of the day, Hoover frequently came out the loser. Instead of a charm offensive, Hoover had a tendency to dig in or, when defeated, turn vindictive, hiring personal detectives to intimidate querulous journalists and burglarize the offices of political opponents.
Hoover’s campaign for reelection never really got off the ground. Prohibition, the defeat of the veterans bonus bill, and the sad Bonus Army affair all compounded the constant bad news on the status of the economy. “His eyes hollowed, his visage haunted with disillusion,” Hoover found himself without political allies, shifting, on an almost daily basis, between offensive and defensive postures. By any measure, the totality of the odds against his success was staggering and upset the already unbalanced Hoover’s equilibrium. Toward the end of the campaign, he sorrowfully lamented “We are opposed by ten million unemployed, ten thousand bonus marchers, and ten-cent corn. Is it any wonder that the prospects are dark?”
And yet, it was during this nadir that Hoover would, by dint of distinguishing himself from FDR, pronounce a political theory, not only based in American individualism, but a belief in the utility and goodness of our economic system, that repays attention by modern students of politics. In a 1932 speech—drafted personally—delivered at Madison Square Garden during the reelection campaign, Hoover made assertions any red-blooded conservative would be pleased to make publicly:
This campaign is more than a contest between two men. It is more than a contest between two parties. It is a contest between two philosophies of government …
The primary conception of this whole American system is not the regimentation of men but the cooperation of free men. It is founded upon the conception of responsibility of the individual to the community, of the responsibility of local government to the state, of the state to the national government.
It is founded on a peculiar conception of self-government designed to maintain this equal opportunity to the individual, and through decentralization it brings about and maintains these responsibilities. The centralization of government will undermine responsibilities and will destroy the system
Toward the end of his life, Hoover devoted time to conserving and archiving his papers. He also, like many statesmen, completed his memoirs, and wrote a fanciful little book, Fishing for Fun—And to Wash Your Soul. And yet, as Rappleye notes, his “greatest work,” Freedom Betrayed, nearly complete by the time of his death in 1964, would not, thanks to the prudence of Hoover’s heirs, see the light of day for fifty years. The book, which Hoover privately referred to as his “magnum opus,” was a sustained indictment of a man in whom this otherwise collected, calculating statesman found his most frightening bugaboos: FDR.
Our national memory of Hoover is imprecise and unfair, an eventuality his famous reticence and off-putting demeanor—to say nothing of the most spectacular of smear campaigns mounted by the left—surely contributed to. We should be grateful for accounts like Rappleye’s that go some of the way toward rehabilitating the image of a figure the Republican Party and conservatives should own with pride.
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How Do Trump’s Conspiracy Theories Go Over in the Middle East? Dangerously.

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The Republican nominee’s claim that President Obama is the ‘founder of ISIS’ is being welcomed by the United States’ enemies.

Are US efforts to isolate Russia faltering?

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The leaders of several key U.S. allies have been reaching out to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a sign that efforts to isolate the country over its 2014 annexation of Crimea may be faltering.

Venezuela’s military emerges stronger during crisis

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Venezuela’s opposition has promised to hold a huge demonstration in the capital Sept. 1, demanding a presidential recall during a deep political and economic crisis that has many going hungry and emotions on edge. One question looms: Will the military allow the protest?

Ben Cardin, Maryland U.S. senator: Efforts to pry into Clinton emails are a 'partisan witch hunt' - Washington Times

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Washington Times

Ben Cardin, Maryland U.S. senator: Efforts to pry into Clinton emails are a 'partisan witch hunt'
Washington Times
“But instead, they continue to go after the e-mail issue even though as I said, the FBI, the director, [James B.] Comey, has indicated that that case is closed.” On Friday, a federal judge said Mrs. Clinton will have to give testimony about her secret ...

The NSA hack proves Apple was right to fight the FBI - Business Insider

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Business Insider

The NSA hack proves Apple was right to fight the FBI
Business Insider
In February, a judge ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock an iPhone that was used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of two attackers who killed 14 people in a December terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. That order set off a vigorous debate ...

and more »

Child bomber in Turkey not the only violent use of children

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The suicide attacker who detonated his explosives amid an outdoor Kurdish wedding party in southeastern Turkey, killing at least 51 people, was an Islamic State group child as young as 12 years old. The extremist group has a history of using children as weapons, sending them to their death strapped with explosives and putting them on front lines in Iraq and Syria.

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What is Trump's game? A few leading theories - Quartz

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What is Trump's game? A few leading theories
Maybe the reason Donald Trump keeps spewing crazy talk and shuffling his campaign staff is that he never wanted to be president in the first place, proposes ultra-leftwing filmmaker Michael Moore. Or, maybe, he must scuttle his candidacy to launch a ...

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Ukraine: 'Famous Russian Writer' Asks Kyiv For Political Asylum

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Ukraine says that a "famous Russian writer" and critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked Kyiv to grant him political asylum after arriving at the Ukraine-Belarus border.

Clinton Campaign Suggests Trump May Be Kremlin 'Puppet'

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Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign manager says Republican rival Donald Trump should explain "the extent to which the Kremlin is at the core" of his campaign, her team's latest suggestion of Russian meddling in the November 8 election.

MI5 stopped Scotland Yard taking Choudary down, sources claim 

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Russian 'Putin mask' activist claims asylum in Ukraine

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Ukrainian authorities say Russian dissident Roman Roslovtsev, famous for protesting in a Putin mask, requests asylum in the country.

Playing With Fire in Ukraine

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Two years after President Vladimir Putin of Russia annexed Crimea and began destabilizing eastern Ukraine, tensions are rising anew, with news reports suggesting that he may be preparing for yet another military confrontation with the pro-Western government in Kiev.
Given his endless capacity for intimidation and unpredictability, it’s possible that Mr. Putin is merely manufacturing the threat of a crisis to strengthen his diplomatic hand and extricate Russia from economic sanctions imposed by the West beginning in 2014. Yet regardless of his intentions, the provocations, real or feigned, could spin out of control. It is essential for Europe and the United States to keep the sanctions in place and remind Mr. Putin that they will not be lifted until he has helped bring peace to Ukraine.
The cease-fire agreed to 18 months ago between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists has been steadily eroding. Mr. Putin’s recent comments have only added to the tension. Last week he accused Ukraine of planning terrorist attacks in Crimea and said that a confrontation with Ukrainian “saboteurs” had led to the deaths of two Russian servicemen in the town of Armyansk near the disputed border with Ukraine. “There is no doubt that we will not let these things pass,” Mr. Putin warned on a state media broadcast.
Adding to the worries about Mr. Putin’s intentions is a military buildup that began in May with the deployment of additional military forces and weapons near Ukraine’s northern, eastern and southern borders. Between Aug. 7 and 12, Russia sent naval and air units, ground forces and military hardware to strengthen separatist forces, according to the Institute for the Study of War, which tracks the conflict. On Friday, a day after Russian land and naval forces conducted war games in Crimea, Mr. Putin further stirred the pot by visiting an air base near Sevastopol.
Hence the guessing game. Does Mr. Putin seriously intend to seize even more territory from a sovereign nation? He revels in unpredictability. He enjoys keeping his adversaries on edge. But it is also true that he went to war with Georgia in 2008 and sent aircraft and troops to intervene in the Syrian war on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad. Even so, Mr. Putin’s economy is a mess, which by itself is reason to wonder whether he would entangle himself in a broader conflict in Ukraine and risk even tougher sanctions, when what he really wants is to get those sanctions lifted.
The smart diplomatic money, at least for the moment, is on the idea that what he’s really after is a better deal. With Europe focused on a refugee crisis and Britain’s exit from the European Union, and America riveted by a presidential election, this is plainly a time for ratcheting up tensions, keeping Ukraine off balance and even raising the threat of a wider war to achieve what are essentially economic and political goals.
Among these is amending the 2015 Minsk II agreement, which was supposed to result in a permanent cease-fire; a withdrawal of troops and heavy weapons from key points in the conflict zone; and Ukrainian political reforms, including elections. Although there are violations on both sides, the deal has foundered largely because of Russia and its separatist allies. The Germans, the French and the Americans have been urging Russia to attend peace negotiations on the sidelines of next month’s G-20 summit meeting in China, but so far Mr. Putin has refused.
The European Union is expected to renew the sanctions this year, but some countries, like Italy, are eager to resume economic activity with Russia and not wait for the Minsk agreement to be fully implemented. Mr. Putin, who is counting on some caving, cannot be rewarded for his aggression.
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manafort and kilimnik - Google Search

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Story image for manafort and kilimnik from Politico

Manafort's man in Kiev

Politico-Aug 18, 2016
That's quite a turnabout from Manafort's work in Ukraine, where Kilimnik's Russian military background was seen as an advantage in working ...
Obama's Russia Delusions and Trump's
Commentary Magazine-Aug 15, 2016
Story image for manafort and kilimnik from Financial Times

Manafort deputy may have had link to Russian intelligence

Financial Times-Aug 19, 2016
But, say several people who used to work with him, it was an open secret among the Manafort team and at a previous employer that Mr Kilimnik ...
Trump campaign chairman resigns
Concord Monitor-Aug 19, 2016
Paul Manafort Wasn't the Problem
Commentary Magazine-Aug 19, 2016

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