Monday, October 21, 2013

Russia News Review - 10/21/2013: Russians accuse Dutch of break-in as diplomatic row deepens - by AFP

Russians accuse Dutch of break-in as diplomatic row deepens

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Moscow claimed that an apartment in the Hague was broken into, just days after a Dutch diplomat was beaten up in Moscow

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Opposition Reapplies for Bolotnaya Protest March

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Opposition activists are refusing to back down in their bid to stage a rally in support of the Bolotnaya case defendants at the end of October.

Greenpeace Premises Robbed In Murmansk

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Greenpeace says masked men broke into its premises in the northern Russian city of Murmansk and stole a mock cage that environmental activists had planned to use in a protest outside the court in the city where the 30-member crew of a Greenpeace ship are detained. 

“Russia is like the Stepmother, not the Mother:” Alisa Oblezova Reflects on Russian Migration Policy Today 

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Interview with former Fulbright Scholar Alisa Oblezova, Senior Lecturer, Labor Law and Social Security Department, Perm State University.

Kremlin’s Response to Moscow Race Riots May Make Things Worse 

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To say that racism is pandemic in Russia these days might be an understatement. Sunday’s race riots in Moscow were certainly not the first time The Interpreter has raised the alarm over the increasingly-radical nationalist movement. Over the summer,  a Russian paratrooper was killed by a Chechen immigrant in the North Caucasus town of Pugachev. Though the specific circumstances of this incident had little to do with race, the murder sparked a wave of anti-immigrant protests across the region. In St. Petersburg, neo-Nazis and police led a pogrom against migrant fruit sellers in August.
There are many reasons why racism in Russia is rearing its head at this moment. The Interpreter has analyzed some of them in a separate article: “Their Brains Are Like a Wrecking Ball.” Analysis of Moscow’s race riots. The wave of racism is alarming, and could have significant implications for the country moving forward. Racism should never be excused or ignored in and of itself, as it is a cancer that eats away at a society. The fact that should not be lost in this discussion is that the Kremlin has created many of the underlying circumstances that have helped fan the flames of racism, and it is the Kremlin’s actions moving forward which could be the most dangerous.
Blame the Russian government for failed immigration policy
Sub-par living conditions and extreme poverty of many immigrant communities creates a dangerous situation where crime and accidental death are daily constants. In Biryulyovo, for instance, a massive warehouse, employing thousands of workers, was allowed to operate in the open and with impunity. Workers in areas like this are paid little, but are often given low-quality, high-density housing. Crime, fires, disease… the living and working conditions of these migrants is unacceptable and dangerous. As these communities grow, they encroach on other neighborhoods, leading to additional tension as the dangers begin to directly impact native Russians, especially in large cities like Moscow.
Local authorities and police ignore these problems, often because they benefit from them directly. Police take bribes directly from immigrants, or from their employers, to look the other way. Officials also often benefit financially from the presence of cheap labor. The EconoMonitor reports:
Recently, immigrants have begun settling in basements of multi-storey buildings of the major Russian citizens. Most of them work in the sector of public utilities. Today, there are some 250 thousand people in Moscow that live in such conditions. Nobody would question that it is profitable for the heads of utility companies to pay immigrants $300-400. But does it bring benefits to Muscovites? According to Vladimir Garnachuk, a deputy of the Troparevo-Nilulino district council, the official salary of a street cleaner in Moscow is $1700. Senior officials of the utility enterprises take the rest $1400.
Ultimately, it is that the Kremlin that benefits from a broken immigration system, and has instituded both the micro and macro policies needed to maximize that benefit. The Russian government has turned its back on immigration from some countries in order to take advantage of the the cheap (or sometimes slave) labor and now it is paying the price.
Economic problems expose racial fault lines
The Russian economy is struggling at a time when it should be thriving. For years, the Russian economy has been adding skilled-labor jobs and allowing migrants to work the lower-paying unskilled-labor jobs. In recent years, both markets have been squeezed. Fewer unskilled jobs hasn’t meant fewer immigrants, however, which has helped lead to more crime. Fewer skilled jobs has meant that there is at least the perception that immigrants are taking these jobs.
Again, we see how Kremlin policies that brought in immigrants as cheap labor have not changed despite the fact that the economy has. It seems that the latest “ism” to haunt the halls of the Kremlin, however, is “Delusionism,” and while armies of economists continue to warn that endemic corruption and Cold-War style economic protectionism and isolationism is dragging the Russian economy to the ground, and with energy costs stable or falling, relying on natural gas and oil just isn’t going to be enough to avert an economic downturn.
Are all changes good changes?
There are signs that the Russian government is finally taking steps to alter immigration policies and crack down on the inexcusable living conditions. But are the Kremlin’s actions even more worrisome than their years of inaction?
For instance, after increased pressure, and a series of neo-Nazi led pogroms, one of which wascaught on film and documented by The Interpreter, authorities rounded up several thousand immigrants, most of them Vietnamese. Many of these workers, however, had been living in the country for years, and they were thrown in an internment camp for an indefinite period of time, until the Russian government can decide what to do with them. The Kremlin’s inaction allowed thousands of these slaves to work in the country for this long without properly dealing with them. Then the Kremlin caved to the demands and concerns of the most racist elements of Russian society. And when it finally acted, the solution may have created a humanitarian crisis worse than the initial problem.
The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published an appeal from human rights activists and members of the Russian intelligentsia, describing a pattern of behavior that they wrote was “reminiscent of the methods by which Hitler came to power”:
We can’t really recall a single high-profile trial of “slaveowners”, although we know about a lot of cases (sometimes we were the ones who brought the victims to the prosecutor’s office) when migrant construction workers were thrown out in the street after their documents were taken and they were not paid a cent for their slave labor. Gentlemen, don’t you feel sorry for the slaves? In any case, in our time to appeal for mercy and compassion, to try to protect the migrant workers’ rights, it’s like spitting against the wind. Now it’s not just about the rights of migrants, it’s about insanity of our own citizens and about the future of the country. It would be great to make the electorate aware of just this particular number: the Russian labor force is reduced by one million people (every year!). What will happen to Russia once the migrants turn to other, more friendly countries? Numerous studies show: without the influx of migrants the Russian economy will fall into decay, and each of us, Russians, will become poorer. Today migrants’ contribution to the national GDP is about 7%.
In the meantime the campaign is gaining momentum, tough police raids have swept through many cities and villages of Russia. Media with passion of sports commentators talks about the number of captured, the exploits of vigilante teams (helping the FMS), the monstrous local initiatives. In Kronstadt, for example, they installed boxes for anonymous letters in public places, introduced free telephone line to report on those who “came in large numbers”: do not be afraid! Somebody even came up with the idea to put some markers on immigrants’ clothes (right, why not certain yellow stars right away?).
The Moscow police took similar steps this past week. First, the police took to the streets to stop the riots. Then, however, they released most of the rioters they arrested, and instead arrested more than 1200 migrant workers. The police then arrested those in charge of the vegetable warehouse which was the focus of the riots, and then arrested the alleged murderer who sparked the riots, beating him and humiliating him in a ridiculous and offensive piece of political theater. These aren’t calculated moves designed to make Russia’s cities safer and to improve the living and working conditions of migrants. This isn’t a systemic calculation, designed to alleviate a humanitarian problem and improve Russia’s economy in the process. These are thuggish, erratic, and potentially dangerous reactions of a government that only seems to be drawn to action when it is led by angry neo-Nazis, destroying public and private property in fits of rage.
Russia”s visa policies are also changing, but not to fix problems like the ones we’ve described. In order to double down on Russocentric and antiquated trade protectionism, Putin is lashing out at any neighboring countries who are more interested in joining the European Union than the Kremlin alternative, the Customs Union. As a response, Putin initiated a full-scale trade war against Ukraine, closing its borders to both guest workers and imports, and threatening to deport anyone with a Ukrainian accent. A story that received less attention is that Russia also denied entry to almost 200,000 Moldovan guest workers, and is considering deporting more than 250,000 other immigrants, for essentially the same reason. But Ukrainian and Moldovan migrant workers are more likely to have legitimate living and working conditions than migrants from the Caucasus or Asia.
Will these other countries face visa regimes now that Moscow’s nationalists have taken to the streets? It’s important to note that while many countries do not face visa regimes, they have trade and labor agreements, and a significant number of businessmen and politicians on both sides of the border benefit from the status quo. So if there is not systematic change, there may be ruthless and indiscriminate crackdowns that appear like change but in reality just mask business as usual.
There are more signs that the Kremlin is learning all the wrong lessons. While RT (a Kremlin-owned news operation propagating Putin’s propaganda to the English-speaking world) openly condemning nationalist sentiment expressed by opposition leader Alexei Navalny,  one of the Kremlin’s Russian-language mouthpieces, Izvestia, published similar sentiments expressed by a political scientist and aformer Moscow mayor. Furthermore, reading the words of Navalny, translated by The Interpreter, his complaints may be hiding an underlying racist subtext, but he is the one calling for specific and systemic reform of immigration, policing, and zoning policies. One needs to look no further than the current mayor of Moscow, a man who has overseen the growth of the immigration problem but is now railing against it, to find even more racially-insensitive and worrisome words:
Moscow is a Russian city and it should remain that way. It is not Chinese, Tajik or Uzbek,” Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told the Moskovskiye Novosti newspaper in May. “People who speak Russian badly and who have a different culture are better off living in their own country.”

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Moscow enlists volunteer militia to clear city of illegal migrants

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Moscow police will enlist the help of a volunteer militia to sweep the streets for illegal migrants, police chief Anatoly Yakunin said today, following the worst race riots in the city in years.
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Emotional letter from Greenpeace protester tells of rotting in Russian cell

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Alexandra Harris, one of 30 arrested during Greenpeace protest, describes her fear of 'rotting in prison in Murmansk' in letter

• Greenpeace activists await trial
• Who are the Arctic 30?
This is an edited extract of a letter sent home last week by Alexandra Harris, one of the six Britonsheld on piracy charges in Russia following a Greenpeace protest against oil drilling in the Arctic.
Sunday 13th October,
Dear Mum, Dad and Georgie,
It's very cold now. It snowed last night. The blizzard blew my very poorly insulated window open and I had to sleep wearing my hat. I'm nervous about spending winter here. I have a radiator in my cell but it's the Arctic breeze that makes the place very cold. I heard that from December Murmansk is dark for six weeks. God, I hope I'm out by then.
Not much happens on the weekends in prison. It's definitely the worst two days of the week. At least during the week I see my lawyer and hear of news. On Thursday I finally saw a few of the letters people have sent me. It was so nice I cried. There was one from you in there. Georgie's made me laugh as she signed off with, "Chin up". Ha ha! I am in prison but I will try to keep my chin up.
Sundays also mean it's revolting meatball night! Yuk! The girls laughed that I knew the food schedule already. But we got a shower today so that's good. The shower is like a waterfall. It's nice.
I should be going to court next week for my appeal, which is pointless because they have already been rejected. But anything to get out of my cell for the day! And if I'm lucky, I may see some of the others.
I'm worried about what's going to happen. I have moments of feeling panicky, but then I try to tell myself that there's nothing I can do from in here and what will be will be so it's pointless worrying. But it's hard. Surely my future isn't rotting in prison in Murmansk?! Well, I really hope it isn't.
Being in prison is like slowly dying. You literally wish your life away and mark off the days. It's such a waste of two months and I really hope it's no longer. Saying that, I am getting used to it. I'm doing a bit of yoga. I find it hard to meditate, though – too many worries on my mind as I'm sure you can understand. The music channel helps a lot. "I Will Survive" is played every night so Camila [Speziale, an Argentinian activist also in detention] and I tap on the wall in beat with the song. Speaking to the girls every day really helps too. We still manage to have a giggle, which is quite good under the circumstances. We all received this metal device to heat water – for days I thought it was curling tongs. When I complained to the girls that the support team could have sent me something more practical than curling tongs, they laughed so much.
The bed is not getting any easier. I'm looking forward to a massage when I get out.
I'm a different person now; stronger. I cry less, which is a good thing. And I'm so appreciative of life. I will not take anything for granted now.
I hope you're all OK. I also hope the news isn't slowly dying. Trying very, very hard not to lose hope.
I love you, Alex xxxx © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Greenpeace activists await trial among harsh winds, tears and no sympathy 

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Briton Alexandra Harris and 29 others face 15 years in jail for Arctic Sunrise protest, but Russians have their own problems

Interactive: who are the 30 Greenpeace activists held in Russia
Locals call Radishchev Street the "street of tears". On one side is Murmansk's biggest funeral parlour; on the other is pretrial detention centre No 1, a foreboding facility fronted by rusting metal gates and crumbling walls.
It is here that the 28 activists and two freelance journalists detained aboard Greenpeace's ship the Arctic Sunrise are being held pending trial.
Friday marked 30 days since Russian coastguards descended from helicopters to take the Arctic Sunrise by storm during Greenpeace's protest against the Prirazlomnaya oil rig.
The environmentalists were brought to the Arctic port city of Murmansk and have been charged with "piracy as part of an organised group" – an offence which carries a jail sentence of 10-15 years.
Throughout the week, activists have been brought one by one from the detention centre to courtrooms in central Murmansk, asking to be released on bail ahead of the pending trials.
On Friday morning, it was the turn of Devon-born Alexandra Harris at the Oktyabrsky district court, which still proudly displays a huge bust of Vladimir Lenin on its exterior.
Harris, wearing a purple sweater and blue jeans, was led into court in handcuffs then locked inside a steel cage for the duration of the hearing.
"I feel like all my rights have been denied," she told the Guardian during a brief break in the hearing. She said she is kept in solitary confinement and allowed outside "into a concrete block" for an hour a day.
Lawyers for Harris presented the court with a guarantee that Greenpeace would put up bail funds of 1m roubles (£20,000), and book her a hotel room in Murmansk ahead of trial, if the court would agree to release her on bail from the detention facility. A number of character references were also provided, and it was noted that Harris has no previous criminal convictions.
She told the court, through a translator, that she was innocent, and complained that when she had serious stomach pains, no doctor was sent to her – despite her asking both a Russian human rights official and a visiting British diplomat to tell the prison she required a doctor.
As has been the case in all 18 of the bail hearings that have so far come to court, the judge flatly refused all of the defence's arguments and refused even to allow Harris to be moved to a guarded hotel room, saying she did not have a Russian visa and could also prove a flight risk. She was led away in handcuffs fighting back tears.
In a handwritten letter to her parents, seen by the Guardian, Harris wrote that she is "trying very, very hard not to lose hope" and says she is nervous about having to spend the winter in Murmansk.
Harris said in court that her cell is heated but when the wind blows it is freezing, as there are many gaps in the windows.
Already, the temperature is well below zero in this forbidding Arctic town of prefabricated apartment blocks and decaying industrial infrastructure; from now on it will only get colder and darker, as the days become shorter and the round-the-clock blackness of the polar winter draws closer.
The Olympic flame, supposed symbol of peace and harmony among nations, passed through Murmansk this week. It will travel close to where the 30 detainees, nationals of 18 countries, are being held when it returns to the city in two weeks.
The flame, journeying through Russia ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next February, has been put aboard a nuclear icebreaker to voyage to the North Pole and back from Murmansk.
The mission is led by the same polar explorer who in 2007 planted a Russian flag on the seabed underneath the North Pole, suggesting that the Olympic torch is being used to cement Russia's claim to the Arctic.
The tough treatment of the Greenpeace activists has been seen as another sign that Russia will tolerate no interference in what it sees as its interests in the Arctic region.
In the queue outside the centre, there is little sympathy for Greenpeace among relatives of other detainees, as they wait to deliver packages. "We have a saying in Russia: you shouldn't go into someone else's house and try to live by your own rules," said one middle-aged woman who had bought a parcel of food for her 33-year-old daughter, who had been inside for five months on charges she did not want to reveal. She had been waiting in freezing temperatures since 4am to ensure she was among the lucky few who got to deliver her package.
Another man, waiting to deliver a package to his brother, suggested the Greenpeace activists were paid by western oil corporations to undermine Russia and should be "shot, or at least sent to a camp". The opinions reflect surveys which show that the majority of Russians support the piracy charges.
Veronika Dmitriyeva, 43, had travelled to Murmansk from Moscow to give a suitcase full of clothes and food to her husband Andrei Allakhverdov, a Greenpeace press officer. She had brought only food and clothes, after a novel that she tried to send to her husband previously, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was rejected by prison authorities as potentially subversive. "He served in the army, so he's used to hard conditions," said Dmitriyeva. "His main problem is boredom. There is nothing to do."
The men are kept in cells with other Russian inmates, while the women are in solitary confinement. Consular visits are limited to two per month, which a Dutch diplomat in Murmansk said possibly violated the Vienna convention.
While Greenpeace has a long history of scuffles with authorities across the globe, it is clear that none of the activists expected it to come to this. Lawyers say that given the number of people involved, it could be months before the case even comes to trial, and authorities are currently preparing applications to extend the detention of the activists beyond the two months initially allotted by the court.
Russia's investigative committee, rather than retreating, has raised the stakes, suggesting it is preparing new charges against some of the activists over drugs it claims were found during a search of the boat, and attempts by some of the Greenpeace activists to damage coastguard boats and put coastguards' lives at risk. Greenpeace has called all the accusations fabrications.
To mark the 30 days since the boat was seized, Greenpeace had planned a one-man protest outside the courtroom in Murmansk, with an activist due to stand in a cage to complain about the detention of the 30.
However, the picket went ahead without the cage after six masked men broke into the Greenpeace office where the cage was being kept overnight, and stole it.
"I'm worried about what's going to happen," wrote Harris to her parents. "I have moments of feeling panicky but then I try to tell myself there's nothing I can do from in here and what will be will be so it's pointless worrying.
"But it's hard. Surely my future isn't rotting in a prison in Murmansk?! Well, I really hope it isn't." © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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Greenpeace Russia row: British activist denied bail despite health concerns 

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Greenpeace activist Alexandra Harris is denied bail in Russian court despite concerns about her health

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Greenpeace HQ raided by masked men before day of Russian protests

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Masked men have broken into Greenpeace’s Russian headquarters in an apparent attempt to intimidate the environmental group into halting its demonstrations against the detention of 30 people over protests against Arctic drilling.

In Wake Of Nationalist Rioting In Moscow, A Hostile Business Takeover?

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Are authorities in Moscow using this week's anti-migrant riot by nationalists as a pretext for a hostile takeover of a lucrative warehouse?

Greenpeace HQ raided by masked men before day of Russian protests 

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Masked men have broken into Greenpeace’s Russian headquarters in an apparent attempt to intimidate the environmental group into halting its demonstrations against the detention of 30 people over protests against Arctic drilling.
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Tolokonnikova to Be Moved to New Prison for 'Personal Safety'

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Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is to be transferred to a new penitentiary for her "personal safety," prison authorities said Friday, after Tolokonnikova announced that she was resuming a hunger strike over poor conditions at the facility where she had been jailed.

Jailed Pussy Riot punk says ‘fears for life’ in penal colony

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Jailed Pussy Riot punk Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said in a letter released Saturday that she feared for her life in her penal colony in the Russian region of Mordovia after resuming a hunger strike.

Russian MP Withdraws Bill Taking Children Away from Gay Parents 

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A bill that proposes stripping gays with children of their parental rights, introduced by Russian lawmaker Alexei Zhuravlyov, has been withdrawn from the parliament, a spokesperson for the lawmaker said Saturday.

Nobel Peace Prize Winners Urge Putin to Free Greenpeace Activists 

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Brazilian activist Ana Paula Alminhana Maciel at a bail hearing in the Murmansk Regional Court.International pressure on Russia over the arrest of Greenpeace activists mounted Thursday as 11 Nobel Peace Prize winners urged President Vladimir Putin to drop the piracy charges against them.

Panama to send detained North Korean crew, ship home: minister

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PANAMA CITY (Reuters) - The North Korean crew and ship detained in Panama for smuggling Cuban weapons three months ago will soon be returned to the reclusive Asian nation, Panama's foreign minister said Thursday.


Blackwater: new charges

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Oct. 18 - New charges are filed in the U.S. against former security guards over civilian deaths in Iraq. Paul Chapman reports.
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Два поезда в чикагской подземке мог столкнуть угонщик - НТВ.ru

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Два поезда в чикагской подземке мог столкнуть угонщик
Полиция разбирается в обстоятельствах аварии, произошедшей сегодня в метро в американском Чикаго, в результате которой пострадали около 50 человек. По некоторым сведениям, не исключено, что один из поездов мог угнать хулиган. Эту версию сейчас также отрабатывают ...
Не менее 48 человек пострадали в железнодорожной катастрофе в ЧикагоРоссийская Газета
Назвали возможную причину столкновения поездов метро в Чикаго
Причиной столкновения поездов в чикагском метро мог стать преступный умысел злоумышленниковИТАР-ТАСС
Комсомольская правда -Вести.Ru -Дни.Ру
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Snowden leaks: France summons US envoy over spying claims - BBC News

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Sky News Australia

Snowden leaks: France summons US envoy over spying claims
BBC News
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned the US ambassador over newspaper claims that the US spied on millions of phone calls in France. France has labelled such activity between allies as "unacceptable". Le Monde says the data, based on ...
Report: US intercepts French phone calls on a 'massive scale'CNN
Report: NSA Took 70.3M French Records in 30 DaysABC News
US Spy Agency Accused Of Tapping French TelephonesRTT News
RT -Economic Times -Fox News
all 55 news articles »

No, Alan Greenspan, You Economists Don't Know Anything

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Economists are convinced that they 'know,' they?re imposing policy as though they know, and there lies the problem.

As 2016 looms, Clinton keeps up with supporters

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Whether she runs for president or not in 2016, Hillary Rodham Clinton is making sure she stays connected to important Democratic constituencies, from college students and black women to the gay and lesbian community....

Inside the mind of Vladimir Putin - CNN (blog)

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Inside the mind of Vladimir Putin
CNN (blog)
Russians who lived during the Soviet Union grew up with government-inspired anti-Americanism. “It's one of the pillars of our country's ideology,” she says. “It was formed a long time ago and was carefully instilled in people by the Soviet leaders. Why ...

and more »