By Jane Armstrong - Friday, March 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
Putin’s Olympic wish list includes returning Russia’s figure skaters to their former glory
Vladimir Putin left nothing to chance when he nailed down the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. In 2007, the Russian president flew to Guatemala, along with a planeload of Russian luminaries, where International Olympic Committee officials met to choose a host city. Once there, the Russians erected an ice rink in the Central American city to provide skating champion Evgeni Plushenko a venue to showcase Russian’s legendary skating prowess. The efforts paid off. Putin got his Winter Games, Russia’s first ever.
For Putin, the Games in Sochi aren’t just a sporting competition. The 17-day spectacle at a Black Sea resort is designed to show the world that Russia has emerged from its post-Soviet gloom to become a modern economic powerhouse.
All Putin needs to complete the storybook resurrection tale are reams of Russian athletes climbing atop medal podiums next year, just as in Soviet times. That part of Putin’s dream might be harder to fulfill. It’s one thing to pour billions into constructing an Olympic city from scratch. It’s another to recreate the kind of Soviet athlete who was bred from birth for the sole purpose of bringing glory to the state. Russian athletes no longer dominate Olympic sports. The decline is most evident in figure skating, a sport where Soviet athletes once crushed Western rivals with their technical brilliance and artistic flair.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 11:54 AM - 0 Comments
In unprecedented move, President Saakashvili gracefully conceded his party’s defeat
Nothing is routine in a place where routine has never been given a chance to settle in. On Oct. 2, the ruling party in Georgia counted the votes in a parliamentary election, realized it had lost, conceded defeat and prepared to hand over power without fuss.
Nothing like that had ever happened before in Georgia.
For generations in the homeland of Joseph Stalin, putsch and betrayal were the standard techniques for political succession. The most recent transition was more peaceful but not more voluntary: an anti-authoritarian Rose Revolution put an end to years of dreary post-Soviet oppression in 2003 when much of the population rose up to protest fixed elections. But the revolution’s principle beneficiary, Mikheil Saakashvili, had not lost an election since. Frequent allegations of election impropriety left the distinct impression he was not interested in putting his power to an honest test.
So it was to Saakashvili’s credit that he conceded immediately after preliminary results showed his governing United National Movement had lost to the upstart Georgian Dream coalition, led by a shadowy expat billionaire named Bidzina Ivanishvili. Saakashvili stays on as President, but most government powers will be exercised by a government of Georgian Dream parliamentarians led by a prime minister who’ll probably be Ivanishvili.
By Ken MacQueen, Aaron Wherry, and Patricia Treble - Friday, September 21, 2012 at 2:50 PM - 0 Comments
Will and Kate fight back, Bill Clinton reveals the secret to his presidency and Putin ’fesses up
Sarah calls in her chits
Practise your music scales and maybe one day you too can play the White House. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton ﬂew to Vancouver to help out Sarah McLachlan, who assembled a stellar crew for her Voices in the Park concert to raise funds for her music school for at-risk youth. Among those performing at her behest on a perfect September Saturday were Jann Arden, Bryan Adams and Stevie Nicks. Clinton, who left his sax at home, delivered a short, sweet message about the importance of music in fostering creativity and brain development. “It is very unlikely I would have ever become president had I not been in school music from the time I was 9 until the time I was 17,” he told the audience of 11,000. McLachlan, he added, has helped his various causes for 20 years “She did it when I was up. She did it when I was down. Politics—it’s a contact sport, in case you hadn’t noticed.” He was honoured to return the favour.
Keep calm and carry on
Talk about awkward timing: Prince William and his wife, Kate, were visiting a mosque in the predominantly Muslim nation of Malaysia when topless photos of the duchess of Cambridge hit newsstands. The blurry shots show the pair poolside at the Provençal retreat of the Queen’s nephew, Viscount Linley. While Kate maintained her smiling public facade, her husband, who is fiercely protective of his wife, took on a “look of absolute thunder,” according to the BBC royal reporter. Royal lawyers launched an all-out attack to stop the photos from spreading further—publications in Italy and Ireland reprinted the snaps before a court-ordered ban. The couple, on a royal tour of the Paciﬁc, pressed on, taking the stiff-upper-lip advice of an aide to “stay calm and carry on.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 4:48 PM - 0 Comments
David Akin reports details of the conversation between the Prime Minister and Vladimir Putin during last weekend’s summit.
But none of this will surprise Russian President Vladimir Putin who as much warned Prime Minister Stephen Harper during their one-on-one meeting in Vladivostok on the weekend that the West should expect this kind of thing for “instigating” mobs in Egypt and Libya. According to officials in the room with the two men, Putin said Harper and other Western leaders are acting like “Trotskyites” – that was Putin’s line — for exporting revolution and promoting instability.
I’m not sure how Putin connects the dots between Stephen Harper and Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky, but Putin’s basic point to Harper was that Western leaders were being dangerously naive by meddling in the affairs of the dictators of the Middle East.
By macleans.ca - Monday, May 14, 2012 at 10:22 AM - 0 Comments
Never bin better…
One year after a special-forces mission killed Osama bin
Never bin better
One year after a special-forces mission killed Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaeda network is looking downright defeated. In Guantánamo Bay, military prosecutors opened their landmark case—2,973 counts of capital murder—against the 9/11 ringleaders, including the brains of the operation, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In Yemen, an air strike killed Fahd al-Quso, one of the terrorists behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. And in Washington, intelligence officials are patting themselves on the backs after thwarting yet another “underwear bomber” who planned to target an American passenger jet.
Outswimming climate change
A ski resort in Aspen, Colo., hosted a race this week—minus the snow. The all-grass gimmick was one of hundreds of events around the world aimed at “connecting the dots” on global warming. “The main point is that climate change is already happening,” said one organizer. The good news? Polar bears are ready for the warm front. A new study has found that female polar bears are actually quite capable of swimming vast distances between ice floes; one animal, tracked with a GPS collar, swam an astonishing 354 km.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, March 12, 2012 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Petrou in Moscow joined the burgeoning opposition standing up to the Russian leader
There were moments when cracks appeared in Russia’s suffocating political reality, and fragments of its future shone through.
Two days before the election that saw Vladimir Putin returned to power for a third term as president, to go along with four years in a prime ministerial holding pattern, self-described revolutionaries gathered in a downtown basement bar called Zavtra, meaning “tomorrow,” and plotted how to end Putin’s rule.
They sat in a smoke-filled nook at the back of the room, far from the serving bar and farther from a long-haired man who sat on a stool with a guitar and sang for other patrons. They drank red wine from teacups on tables piled with white ribbons and protest buttons. Several hunched over sleek-looking smartphones and Wi-Fi tablets. Many had not met before in person. They had connected on Facebook and other social networking sites. Many were politicized by Putin’s announcement in September that he and then president Dmitry Medvedev had agreed to switch positions this year, with Putin again standing for president and Medvedev expected to resume his role as prime minister.
By Michael Petrou - Monday, March 5, 2012 at 3:25 PM - 0 Comments
It’s after midnight in Moscow. The anti-Putin rally at Pushkin Square has been broken up with — according to some reports — some 250 arrests, including opposition leader Alexey Navalny, whose accomplishments include popularizing the epithet “crooks and thieves” to describe Putin’s United Russia party. Another 300 were arrested in St. Petersburg.
I’ve got two notebooks and a digital recorder full of material which I’ll spend tomorrow trying to gather into some sort of coherent narrative for this week’s magazine. In the meantime, two thoughts: Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Monday, March 5, 2012 at 10:38 AM - 0 Comments
Michael Petrou is in Russia to cover this weekend’s presidential election, which Vladimir Putin won under dubious circumstances. Thousands of anti-Putin protesters have amassed in Moscow as a result. Michael will be posting updates below throughout the day. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelpetrou. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 12:07 PM - 0 Comments
Michael Petrou is in Russia to cover Sunday’s election, which Vladimir Putin is widely expected to win. He’ll be posting all the latest from the celebrations and/or protests below. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelpetrou. Continue…
By Michael Petrou - Tuesday, January 17, 2012 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
A new generation of Russians is saying, enough is enough
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s memories of public protests against an established order are long and—likely for him—disconcerting.
In 1989, Putin was working for Russia’s KGB spy agency in the East German city of Dresden. His tasks included recruiting agents. Shortly after the Berlin Wall was breached, an angry crowd of Germans besieged the KGB office, which was located next to an office of the Stasi East German secret police. They wanted files on informants. Putin took it upon himself to confront them. He said the office didn’t belong to the Stasi but to the Soviet Union, and armed men inside would defend it. Some reports say Putin himself carried a weapon. When some in the crowd grew suspicious and questioned Putin about his excellent German, he told them he was a translator.
Putin managed to calm everyone down. The crowd dispersed. But Putin—who earlier in the evening telephoned a local Soviet army unit and was told it could do nothing—must have known the gig was up. East and West Germany were reunited within a year, and the Soviet Union itself collapsed soon after. A seemingly unshakable political order had dissolved, in large part because ordinary citizens had filled streets and public squares to demand its end.
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, October 19, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 15 Comments
The Russian leader is now clear to be president until 2024, but many Russians are voting with their feet
In most official democracies, citizens must wait until an election is held to find out who will be running their country. Russia is different.
Last month, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s president and its supposed head of state, told a congress of the ruling United Russia party that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would run for president in March, returning to a job he held from 2000 to 2008. At the same conference, Putin proposed that Medvedev lead the United Russia party list in parliamentary elections, and assume the position of prime minister.
The announcements confirmed what many had long suspected: Putin, forbidden by Russia’s constitution from running for a third consecutive term, had simply appointed Medvedev to keep his seat warm for four years until he, Putin, could return to power. Despite claiming earlier this year that he would like to continue as president, Medvedev admitted the two had cooked up the deal “several years ago.” Putin is now clear to hold the presidency until 2024.
Someone will run against Putin, for appearances’ sake. But the election results are not in question. Putin is far and away the most liked politician in Russia. “If there were a genuinely free and fair election—which there won’t be—then Putin would win it. You can’t get around that,” says James Nixey, a research fellow at Chatham House, a British think tank. “The fact that they rig it anyway is a source of continual amazement for me.”
Putin’s popularity owes something to timing and to luck. His presidency coincided with a steep rise in global energy prices that benefited Russia and allowed it to reassert itself in the former Soviet sphere, using oil and gas as a weapon to bully countries like Ukraine and Georgia that sought closer ties to the West.
By Erica Alini - Tuesday, September 27, 2011 at 9:00 AM - 2 Comments
Russia re-visits plans to build an underwater railway line to North America
It’s that time of the year again, when Russia announces it will build a tunnel all the way to America across the Bering Strait. The ultimate public infrastructure project “is already under way,” an official from the Russian Ministry of Economic Development recently told a local English-language TV station.
In the last couple of months, reports that the Kremlin endorsed building a $90-billion transcontinental railway line linking Siberia to Alaska appeared everywhere from Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper to the U.S.’s Business Insider blog. According to a recent opinion piece in the London Times, “the Russians, Canadians and Americans seem confident that they can muster the political will, technical know-how and massive funds to complete the project.” Washington, however, knew nothing about it, according to the U.S. State Department, and Ottawa gave no comment.
That’s hardly surprising. The Bering Strait tunnel has been a pie-in-the-sky fixture of Russia’s public debate since 1905, when Czar Nicholas II first approved a blueprint for the project. After the Cold War, then-Russian president Boris Yeltsin vowed to build the tunnel to increase transportation links to the U.S., Russia’s new-found friend. This taste for megaprojects is a residue of “the penchant for gigantism that characterized the Soviet Union,” says Aurel Braun, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto. Soviet officials, he adds, loved to dazzle people with enormous public developments, such as reversing rivers, vast hydroelectric dams, or Magnitogorsk, the largest steel city in the world.
Now, as President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Russia’s top political duo, gear up for next year’s presidential election, talk of ambitious below-the-sea excavations to connect the world’s two largest continents has resurfaced. With the country drifting further and further away from democracy and the Russian public sliding into political apathy, Braun says, a newly authoritarian Moscow seems to be borrowing a page from Soviet Russia in an attempt to please the masses.
By Colby Cosh, Richard Warnica and Alex Ballingall - Monday, August 22, 2011 at 1:05 PM - 0 Comments
Frances Bean Cobain comes of age, Ai Weiwei opens up, and Vladimir Putin’s latest macho stunt backfires
Putin’s dive bombs
For a certain set, the phrase “jumping the shark” has come to represent the moment when a cultural product passes beyond relevance—usually by means of a desperate or deliberate stunt. “Finding the urn” may soon be the political equivalent. Last week, Vladimir Putin “discovered” ancient Greek urns during a Black Sea dive. The Russian prime minister, a novice diver, made his find in front of media at a depth of six metres in an area well picked over by archaeologists. Russian state television, on hand for the raising of the urns, praised the discovery, which came to “everyone’s utter surprise,” said Russia Today. But independent media have been a tad more skeptical. Putin’s devotion to the photo op is well-known: whether he’s shooting tigers, fishing topless or piloting a helicopter, the cameras are never far behind. But as he gears up for another possible presidential run, one wonders if the urn scoop wasn’t a photo op too far. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, meanwhile, said he would consider accepting the post of prime minister—but only if he likes the incoming president’s agenda. The owner of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets, who got his business start in the ’80s selling stonewashed jeans, provoked scorn in Russia recently by suggesting the country abandon the ruble in favour of the euro. No word yet on his archaeological skills.
A race is on between hunters and animal rights activists in Bavaria. A cow named Yvonne, who in May broke through an electric fence, earned a price on her head when a police car almost hit her after she roamed onto a highway. Officials said she had to be captured, dead or alive, and sent two hunters to track her down. An animal sanctuary caught wind of the hunt and dispatched volunteers to find her—armed, in their case, with tranquilizer guns. Last week, the German tabloid Bild announced a US$14,000 reward for Yvonne, and a Swiss “animal communicator” has agreed to help with the dragnet. A handsome bull named Ernst—described as the “George Clooney of breeding bulls” by a local animal sanctuary—has also been corralled into action.
By Richard Warnica, Alex Ballingall, Emma Teitel, and Cigdem Iltan - Monday, July 18, 2011 at 9:55 AM - 0 Comments
Anthony Galea pleads guilty, Bieber fever starts to wane, and a lost dog finally makes it home
The incredible journey
One lucky Montreal family finally got their dog back last week after an amazing, year-long adventure that took the pup 4,500 km across the country. Pollux, a black Lab cross who escaped from her east-end Montreal home last June, turned up in Kamloops, B.C., where, last week, the SPCA found a microchip implant registered to her vet. No one is sure how exactly Pollux travelled so far, but her owner, Isabelle Robitaille, thinks she might have jumped on a train to avoid the rain, since she’s scared of water. Robitaille let her kids, who cried themselves to sleep when she disappeared, stay up way past bedtime to welcome their beloved pooch home at the airport, where she was greeted with squeals. “For them, it’s a second Christmas,” Robitaille told the Montreal Gazette. “My son spent 45 minutes just petting her. He was so happy.”
A long road to another struggle
Just two nights after tossing the ball that led to the accidental death of ﬁreﬁghter Shannon Stone, Texas Rangers left-fielder Josh Hamilton hit a game-winning, two-run homer against the Oakland A’s. Hamilton, who was said to be “very distraught” after the tragedy, rounded the bases with his head down only to be mobbed by his teammates at home plate as the home crowd hollered in support. After the game, Hamilton told reporters that his thoughts were with Stone’s family. The 39-year-old firefighter was at a Rangers game with his six-year-old son when Hamilton threw him a foul ball. The toss was short, and Stone fell to his death after leaning over the railing to catch it. This isn’t the first time Hamilton has faced adversity. Struggles with heroin and alcohol almost cost the all-star his career. What helps him get through it all? He’s a born-again Christian, and after Stone’s death, Hamilton stayed up all night talking with his wife, Katie.
By Erica Alini - Friday, June 3, 2011 at 4:00 PM - 8 Comments
A new Russian comic book portrays Vladimir Putin as the next action hero—crushing terrorists and the opposition.
Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have had his upcoming Governator comic killed after details of his marital infidelity were splattered in gossip magazines across the world. In Russia, though, the news cycle is actually helping rocket Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to the big league of cartoon superheroes. Superputin, A Man Like Any Other, an online comic strip, was released last week, and is already an Internet phenomenon—courtesy of its timing, which coincides with the run-up to the presidential election next year.
Superputin, allegedly the work of a Russian PR freelancer who received no input from the Kremlin, features a kimono-clad Putin darting to rescue a bus from an al-Qaeda bomb attack. Helping him is the cartoon version of President Dmitry Medvedev, described as a “gnome raised by bears” with an obsession for gadgets. The gentle parody of Russia’s political duo registered three million views in its first week, but has also stirred criticism for portraying the political opposition as brain-hungry zombies.
By Jenn Cutts - Thursday, May 19, 2011 at 12:30 PM - 0 Comments
In order to boost Russia’s population, Vladimir Putin is putting big money behind baby-making
What’s Vladimir Putin got on his mind ahead of next year’s elections? Babies. In a speech last month, the prime minister pledged $51 billion for “demographic projects” meant to raise the country’s birth rate by up to 30 per cent in less than five years.
Russia’s population has dropped by 2.2 million people in the last eight years, to just under 143 million. Putin calls the decline Russia’s gravest problem. The billions will fund incentives such as free land for families with three or more children, and increased child-benefit payments. It will also support existing schemes, such as one-time $13,000 payments for mothers of two or three children, and medals for women with many children (a Soviet-era practice Putin rekindled in 2007). In the past, youth roused by Putin’s message set up “sex tents” at summer camps and wore T-shirts declaring, “I want three children.”
Though Russia’s birth rate is comparable to those of many Western countries, it’s compounded by a high death rate. Drug and alcohol abuse has increased sharply since the collapse of the Soviet Union, taking a toll on men in particular.
By Anna Porter - Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 9 Comments
Things are even worse if you happen to be Chechen
The London Book Fair, which ran from April 16 to 18, hardly seemed like the best place for an enthusiastic endorsement of Joseph Stalin’s star-studded achievements. Nevertheless, Russian literary firebrand Mikhail Elizarov told a crowd at a seminar called “Beyond the Headlines: Writing About Russia Today” that Winston Churchill’s murders far outweighed those of Stalin, and furthermore, were it not for Stalin we would all be speaking German. Elizarov, whose novels include Pasternak and The Librarian, was part of the Russian delegation, jointly funded by the British Council and the Academia Rossica. In answer to the question whether journalism in Russia today was a dangerous choice of professions, Elizarov scoffed: “No more so than in the United States.”
While it’s a safe bet that Elizarov belongs to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s new patriotic intelligentsia, it is hard to believe that he would imagine the U.S. is as deadly for journalists as is Putin’s Russia. The International Federation of Journalists has documented over 300 deaths among journalists in Russia, plus hundreds of abductions, disappearances and severe beatings. The 2006 brutal murder of crusading journalist Anna Politkovskaya, and the worldwide protests that followed, have neither slowed the mayhem, nor have there been signs that the authorities are prepared to arrest and prosecute those responsible. Several of her colleagues at Novaya Gazeta have been beaten, threatened or gunned down. In November 2010, investigative journalist Oleg Kashin suffered a fractured skull, broken leg and shattered jaw. There have been no arrests.
While writing about life in Putin’s Russia is dangerous, writing sympathetically about Chechnya must surely be suicidal. The death toll in the Second Chechen War is estimated to be between 25,000 and 50,000. It was her writings about atrocities there that likely killed Politkovskaya. And if journalism is a life-threatening profession for Russians, it must be doubly so for Chechens (two months before the London Book Fair, a Chechen warlord claimed credit for the bomb that killed 37 people at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport).
By Erica Alini - Wednesday, April 27, 2011 at 10:40 AM - 3 Comments
The wildly popular PM appears to be readying himself for a 2012 presidential run
From China to Tajikistan, the turmoil that has roiled the Middle East in recent months is spoiling the sleep of authoritarian leaders across the world. Not that of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, though. The former president’s popularity held up through both a small war, in Georgia in 2008, and a serious recession, in 2008-2009. Now, with his personal approval rating hovering around 70 per cent, he has said he may run for the presidency in 2012.
Putin has certainly remained front and centre in Russian politics. Roughly a decade after first rising to power in 1999, he still enjoys idol status at home. Admittedly, some of his latest sightings among Hollywood’s glitzy posse may have been a little over the top, even for the Russian public—the PM’s uneasy musical rendering of Blueberry Hill before a beaming Sharon Stone and others at a charity event in St. Petersburg last year apparently didn’t sit well with the home audience. But Putin’s carefully crafted macho-man image, which has seen him hunting in Siberia wearing only green fatigues, whitewater rafting, and even demonstrating judo moves in a popular instructional video, hasn’t tired the Russian public yet.
It projects strength, health and self-discipline. And those virtues are nothing short of inspirational for a nation where a former president, Boris Yeltsin, was drunk in public, where alcoholism and addiction have spread like epidemics, and which came terrifyingly close to social and political meltdown only a decade ago, says Edward Lucas, the author of The New Cold War: Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West. Unlike Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Moammar Gadhaﬁ, whose images as nationalist heroes faded decades ago, Russia observers say Putin is still riding high on political credit for having rescued the Russia of the Yeltsin years from anarchy and near disintegration.
By Stephanie Findlay - Friday, March 4, 2011 at 10:08 AM - 2 Comments
Moscow opts to regulate the drink as alcohol
The state Duma is taking beer to task in Russia. In the past, the beverage was regulated by a 2005 law that classified it as a foodstuff. As such, its distribution did not require state licensing, and it could be advertised at night on TV and sold 24 hours a day in kiosks and supermarkets. Last week, however, Moscow almost unanimously adopted a bill that recognizes beer as alcohol. Beginning July 1, there will be new regulations for the drink that include restricted nighttime sales, and, like vodka, making it illegal to sell at street kiosks. The size of beer bottles is also set to decrease from 500 ml to 300 ml.
The new legislation is part of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s campaign to curb alcoholism and underage drinking in the country (another proposed bill is a nationwide ban on alcohol sales from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m.). Russians are among the highest imbibers in the world: last month, a report released by the World Health Organization found that Russians drink an average of 15.7 litres of alcohol a year, compared to the world average of 6.3 litres. One in five Russian male deaths is caused by alcohol. And yet, the new beer legislation will only apply to suds stronger than five per cent—just a modest proportion of beer sales—leading some to criticize the legislation as too soft.
By Patricia Treble - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 12:11 PM - 1 Comment
Is Vladimir Putin the owner of a $1-billion, eight-million-sq.-foot mansion?
The sprawling Italianate palace has breathtaking views of the Black Sea, its own casino, helipad, theatre and even an amphitheatre. And, if claims by businessman Sergei Kolesnikov are to be believed, Russia’s prime minister, Vladimir Putin, is the owner of the $1-billion, eight-million-sq.-foot mansion. In December, Kolesnikov, who says he was involved in the estate’s financing, published an open letter linking Putin to the ornate villa in the Krasnodar region. He alleged it was being built “mainly through a combination of corruption, bribery and theft.”
In January, a Russian website posted photos of the elaborate structure. It was quickly blocked. Then on Feb. 14, Novaya Gazeta published what it says are copies of a 2005 investment contract for the estate signed by the deputy of the office for presidential affairs, which would directly link the palace to Putin, who was then president. Russia’s reputation for graft earned it the 154th spot out of 178 nations on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index.
By Charlie Gillis, Chris Sorensen and Nicholas Köhler - Friday, February 4, 2011 at 12:00 PM - 0 Comments
Kim Campbell schools the U.S. right, Naomi Campbell’s ‘Frost-Nixon moment,’ and Nabokov was right
A breath of fresh Canadian air
The usual right vs. left political jabber of American talk TV was punctuated this week by a few clear-eyed statements courtesy of Canada’s first female prime minister. On Real Time With Bill Maher, former Progressive Conservative leader Kim Campbell called Republican Jack Kingston‘s views on global warming “absolute rubbish,” pointing out to the Georgia congressman that scientists didn’t set out looking for a non-existent problem just to torture right-leaning politicians. When the conversation shifted toward the evolution vs. creation debate, Campbell asked if Kingston was concerned about the alarming rise of antibiotic-resistant microorganisms in hospitals. He squirmed. “That’s evolution,” she said to applause. Does 132 days as PM preclude Campbell from a future in politics?
In addition to writing great novels, Vladimir Nabokov was a self-taught expert on the evolutionary biology of butterflies—though, like any amateur, the Lolita author faced skepticism from the scientific establishment. Now one of his most audacious theories has been proven right. A paper published by the Royal Society has endorsed Nabokov’s hypothesis that butterflies are not indigenous to North America, but rather arrived in a series of “waves” from Asia. The new research was made possible by gene-sequencing technology Nabokov never had. Said Naomi Pierce, a Harvard expert who co-authored the study: “It’s really quite a marvel.”
Single White Premier seeks less idiotic press
With three female premiers and a female prime minister, Julia Gillard, Australian voters seem fairly accustomed to the idea of women in politics. The media? Not so much. The country’s biggest national newspaper, the Australian, ran a front-page story about Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings‘s first day in office that zeroed in on her comments (in response to a reporter’s question) about the challenges of snaring a husband when you’re a busy politician. The headline read: “Leftist Lara still looking for Mr. Right.” Critics shook their heads. “Why on Earth was this suddenly relevant the day Giddings became Tasmania’s first female premier?” asked one Sydney Morning Herald columnist, noting Giddings was previously an unmarried treasurer and an unmarried attorney general. “It was not as if she had landed from Mars.”
By Julia Belluz - Thursday, November 4, 2010 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
Parliament has endorsed Sergei Sobyanin, an insider with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
In his 18-year tenure as Moscow’s mayor, Yuri Luzhkov transformed the gloomy post-Soviet capital into a bustling global city—and the site of a quarter of Russia’s economic output last year. But the independent-minded mayor fell out with the Kremlin, faced allegations of corruption, and was sacked by President Dmitry Medvedev in September.
To replace him, parliament has endorsed Sergei Sobyanin, 52, an insider with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. While Sobyanin is free of corruption charges, he comes to power undemocratically: Putin abolished elections for mayors and governors while he was president (he served two terms but was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a consecutive third, and so became PM). Sobyanin has vowed to clean up the corruption and bureaucracy that “could devaluate many if not all Moscow’s competitive advantages.” He may well be the man to fix some of the problems, including notorious traffic jams. But there is a lot at stake: as a “100 per cent Putin man,”
Sobyanin’s success or failure could have an impact on Putin’s expected run for a third presidential term in 2012.
By Jane Switzer - Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 8:20 AM - 0 Comments
Vladimir Putin gave his strongest indication yet that he’ll run in the 2012 presidential election
Between a string of appearances on a four-day tour across Siberia, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin gave his strongest indication yet that he’ll run in the 2012 presidential election. Though tight-lipped about his intentions, Putin told the newspaper Kommersant that the idea interests him “more than anyone,” although he “doesn’t make a fetish out of it.” Putin became Russia’s most popular politician during his 2000-2008 presidency, but ceded power to protege Dmitry Medvedev due to a constitutional limit on serving a third consecutive term. He is now eligible to return and serve another two consecutive terms. The 57-year-old former KGB officer’s well-documented summer exploits, from co-piloting a firefighting plane to taking part in a scientific whale expedition, have also fuelled rumours of his political intentions.
In the interview, Putin also had choice words for anti-government protesters who have been denied access to a central Moscow square since last year, saying they don’t have the right to gather illegally: “You need to get permission from the local authorities,” he said. “If you have received it, then go and demonstrate. If you have taken to the streets without the right to do so then you are going to get bashed over the head with a truncheon. That is all there is to it.”
By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze - Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 9:40 AM - 0 Comments
Putin adds his own perspective on the current state of American democracy
Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, though frequently raising a few eyebrows when he does, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told a scrum of French reporters recently that the Western model of democracy simply doesn’t exist.
“Can you tell me what it is—the Western model of democracy? France has one model of democracy, the U.S.A. has another one,” Putin said, then added his own perspective on the current state of American democracy. “A French politician told me once, ‘One cannot do anything at the elections in the U.S.A. without money—whether they are elections to the Senate or Congress, not to mention the presidential elections. There is nothing to do there without a sack of money.’ ”
Putin also took this opportunity to defend Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008. “People died as a result of the criminal action launched by President [Mikheil] Saakashvili two years ago. Russia was forced to defend the lives of its peacemakers and the citizens of South Ossetia,” the prime minister declared. “We stopped 15 to 20 km from Tbilisi. We stopped there not because we could not enter Tbilisi—we stopped because we didn’t want to do it. We didn’t want any military action at all.”
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 2:22 PM - 4 Comments
Interesting observation from the Prime Minister near the conclusion of this news conference today.
“I’ve never been at a summit where leaders seemed to more deeply feel the necessity of common action and common purpose. Why is that? Some of it may be some of the personalities around the table and the generational change that’s taken place in the G8 over the past few years.”
There is perhaps something to this.
Mr. Harper succeeded Paul Martin in 2006. Since then, in roughly this order, Nicolas Sarkozy has replaced Jacques Chirac, Dmitry Medvedev has filled the spot of Vladimir Putin, Silvio Berlusconi has returned to power in Italy, Barack Obama has succeeded George W. Bush, David Cameron has succeeded Gordon Brown and Naoto Kan has replaced Yukio Hatoyama. Of the eight leaders who attended the Prime Minister’s first G8, at St. Petersburg in 2006, only Mr. Harper and Germany’s Angela Merkel remain. And of the new arrivals, five—Harper, Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy and Medvedev—are 55 years old or younger.