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Did Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Drop a Grim Hint About Putin’s Latest Power Grab?

Did Russian Prime Minister Medvedev Drop a Grim Hint About Putin’s Latest Power Grab?At a celebration of the Russian Orthodox New Year on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev chose a grim message, the sarcasm of which left his audience on edge. But, then, Medvedev probably knew what Wednesday would bring—the resignation of his entire government—and the audience did not.Putin’s Power Play: Shuffle the Cabinet But Keep CommandOn national television, the prime minister read at length from Anton Chekhov’s story "A Night in the Cemetery," which suggests with ironic wit that celebrating the coming of the New Year is a foolish pursuit, unworthy of a properly functioning mind, since “every coming year is as bad as the previous one,” and the newest year is bound to be even worse. Instead of celebrating the New Year, Chekhov wrote—and Medvedev read—one should suffer, cry and attempt suicide. Every new year brings you closer to death, makes you poorer, your bald spots larger and your wife older, he said.Medvedev’s sour greetings brought on some awkward laughs and sparse applause from confused Russian bureaucrats in the studio audience, most of whom remained stone-faced. The prime minister seemed nervous and almost dropped his papers at the end of the speech.Then Wednesday dawned, and Russian President Vladimir Putin in his annual state of the nation address proposed a constitutional overhaul. It supposedly is designed to boost the powers of parliament and the cabinet, but more likely is intended to give Putin, 67, a firm grip on the country for many more years, even decades, to come. A few hours later, Medvedev submitted his resignation, and his entire cabinet submitted theirs as well. And while some of them may stay on, Medvedev, who once served a term as Putin's placeholder president, will move to a previously nonexistent post.Putin offered the prime minister slot to Mikhail Mishustin, the head of the Russian Tax Service, who has been described as “the taxman of the future,” digitally acquiring receipts of every transaction in Russia within 90 seconds. It's unclear whether Mishustin will be a placeholder technocrat or assume other responsibilities currently known only to Putin. But in his annual address, Putin articulated the need to identify any persons with current or former double citizenships and foreign holdings, eliminating them from government service. Mishustin might become instrumental in such a reshuffling of Russia’s power elites, who are perceived to be unpatriotic by maintaining residences or bank accounts abroad. The added pressure will also give Putin further leverage over them. In the past, Putin and Medvedev have choreographed moves that allowed Putin to remain in charge under different titles, swapping places to circumvent term limits.This time around, Medvedev will assume a newly created position as the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council and all current ministers will remain in an acting capacity until a new government is appointed.Meanwhile, the leader of Chechnya in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region, Ramzan Kadyrov has declared himself to be “temporarily incapacitated,” relegating his duties to the current prime minister of Chechnya, Muslim Khuchiyev.Putin’s sweeping changes are widely interpreted as designed to weaken his successor, reshaping Russia’s power structure in order to create additional opportunities for Putin's continued control over the government, even after the conclusion of his fourth presidential term in 2024. Putin proposed amending the Russian constitution to expand the powers of the legislative branch and investing additional powers in the State Council, leading to speculation Putin is contemplating his future return at the helm of a newly empowered Parliament, after the expiration of his current presidential term.Commentary on the Russian president’s likely intention to carve out a new position for himself has been skillfully avoided by the Russian state media. Instead, Kremlin-controlled news outlets chose to focus on promised subsidies for families with young children, designed to address Russia’s demographic crisis by boosting the birth rate, and the general claim that Putin has, as it were, made Russia great again.On the Russian state television show, The Evening with Vladimir Soloviev, the host proclaimed, “The greatness of the country is indisputably tied to the name of Putin.” Soloviev argued that the Russian president “restored respect” towards their country globally. His take was echoed by the State Duma Deputy Chair Irina Yarovaya, who pontificated that Putin, having achieved his foreign policy and national security objectives, could now move on to his domestic agenda. Yarovaya said, “We remember statements by [U.S. President Barack Obama] in 2014—very recently—that Russia is a regional power of minor importance. We remember all of that. We remember how the sanctions started. We remember how we weren’t invited to the G8. And today there is a line of world leaders waiting just to talk to our president over the phone…”The sanctions started and Russia was disinvited after it seized and annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014, then incited and abetted a separatist war in Ukraine's east. They were intensified after Russia's flagrant interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections.Russian state media also highlight Putin’s promises of socioeconomic largesse and his prediction that “Russia's economy will grow faster than the global average in 2021.” During the last decade, the Russian leader has promised in vain that Russia will become the world’s fifth largest economy by 2024. It is currently ranked as the 11th largest economy in the world, with a smaller GDP than that of California. President Putin’s current growth prediction is much more modest. It’s still not realistic, but such promises had to be made as Russia’s declining standards of living have led to political unrest and mass protests.Without providing any direct answers as to his own plans, the Russian leader—who has now been in power for 20 years—created new venues for his continued reign in yet-to-be-revealed future capacities.Amid all the uncertainties, maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that Medvedev was reading Chekhov’s story about a blind drunk civil servant who stumbles out of a New Year’s celebration only to get lost in a graveyard—and then discovers in the morning he was somewhere else entirely.Russia Loves the Impeachment Hearings Because GOP Is Parroting Kremlin PropagandaRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Wisconsin police officer shoots student who pulled gun, refused to drop it, officials say

Wisconsin police officer shoots student who pulled gun, refused to drop it, officials sayThe student reportedly brought the gun to school. The suspect is in custody and the building is secure, according to the Waukesha Police Department.



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Look out below: Which Democratic candidate will drop out next?

Look out below: Which Democratic candidate will drop out next?At first there were 26. Now there are “only” 17. Who will be the next Democratic presidential candidate to drop out?



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Cash-Strapped Booker Says Could Drop White House Bid by Tuesday

Cash-Strapped Booker Says Could Drop White House Bid by Tuesday(Bloomberg) — Cory Booker said he could end his presidential campaign by Tuesday unless he is able to reach his goal of $ 1.7 million in donations within the next 36 hours.Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, the New Jersey senator said that despite an “avalanche of support,” his campaign needed “some more help” from contributors. His campaign website shows he’s about $ 150,000 short of the amount he targeted on Sept. 21 to have a viable path to victory.Although he has languished at 2% or 3% in most polls and is struggling in fund raising, Booker has qualified for the October debate of Democratic presidential candidates. In the CNN interview, Booker said he has also met the threshold of 165,000 unique donors required to participate in the November debate.Booker also rose to the defense of the Democratic front-runner Joe Biden, saying the accusations from President Donald Trump that the former vice president acted improperly to benefit his son Hunter’s business interests in Ukraine are unfounded.“I wouldn’t be running if I didn’t think I should be president, not him,” Booker said of Biden, with whom he has clashed on the campaign trail and at debates.Yet the allegations from Trump “should in no way affect the vice president in his pursuit of the nomination,” he said. “This can in no way besmirch his character, his honor and his incredible service to this country over decades.”Instead, Booker said the focus should be on the actions of Trump and his family, and said he would tighten the rules if elected president.“I’m watching what’s going on with the Trump family right now and Trump properties, and I just find that deeply offensive to just any kind of independent sense of what’s honorable, ethical, not to mention consistent with the emoluments clause,” he said, referring to a clause in the Constitution that forbids accepting payments from foreign governments. “I just don’t think children of president and vice presidents during an administration should be out there doing that.”To contact the reporter on this story: Hailey Waller in New York at hwaller@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: James Ludden at jludden@bloomberg.net, Max Berley, Mark NiquetteFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Nevada, SC, Kansas GOP drop presidential nomination votes

Nevada, SC, Kansas GOP drop presidential nomination votesRepublican leaders in Nevada, South Carolina and Kansas have voted to scrap their presidential nominating contests in 2020, erecting more hurdles for the long-shot candidates challenging President Donald Trump. “What is Donald Trump afraid of?” asked one of those rivals, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. Doing so allows Trump to try to consolidate his support as Democrats work to winnow their large field of candidates.



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2020 Vision: Democratic field continues to shrink as Inslee and Moulton drop out

2020 Vision: Democratic field continues to shrink as Inslee and Moulton drop outThe presidential primary field further winnowed this week, with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton announcing their withdrawals.



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Trump to drop out of 2020 race within months, former aide Scaramucci claims

Trump to drop out of 2020 race within months, former aide Scaramucci claimsDonald Trump will quit the 2020 race and not seek re-election, according to a former top aide.Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived White House communications director, said the president will likelu quit the race in March to avoid the humiliation of defeat.“He’s gonna drop out of the race because it’s gonna become very clear. Okay, it’ll be March of 2020. He’ll likely drop out by March of 2020. It’s gonna become very clear that it’s impossible for him to win,” he said in an interview with Vanity Fair.“He’s got the self-worth in terms of his self-esteem of a small pigeon. It’s a very small pigeon. And so you think this guy’s gonna look at those poll numbers and say — he’s not gonna be able to handle that humiliation.”He also encouraged a primary challenger to take on Mr Trump, using a Game of Thrones analogy to make his case. “You know, this is like ‘Game of Thrones.’ We need an Arya Stark, okay? We gotta take this guy out because this is like the Night King.“The minute the Night King is vaporised, all the zombies are gonna fall by the wayside, right? We had the Wicked Witch of the West, but he is the Wicked Witch of the West Wing. We gotta get some water thrown on him. He’ll start melting.”In recent weeks, Scaramucci has escalated the feud with his old boss, saying Mr Trump would eventually “turn” on the “entire country”, and likening him to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.He also claimed this week that Twitter temporarily locked him out of his account after he called Mr Trump “the fattest president” after the president fat-shamed a protester.Mr Trump has previously hit back at Scaramucci, saying he was “incapable” of handling his White House role – which lasted just a few days – and would “do anything to come back in”.



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Oil Resumes Drop as Demand Fears Overshadow Iran Tanker Seizure

Oil Resumes Drop as Demand Fears Overshadow Iran Tanker Seizure(Bloomberg) — Oil resumed its decline as a sharp drop in the Chinese yuan compounded fears that a deepening trade war will depress demand, countering concerns crude flows may be disrupted following Iran’s seizure of another ship.Futures lost as much as 1.5% in New York. The yuan weakened beyond 7 a dollar for the first time in more than a decade after President Donald Trump said Friday he can raise tariffs on China to a “much higher number.” That followed his threat the day before to increase levies, which spurred the steepest one-day drop in crude prices in more than four years. Iran seized a foreign tanker in the Persian Gulf on July 31, the Revolutionary Guards said on their Sepah News portal Sunday, without giving any details about the vessel.Asian stocks and currencies extended declines on the escalating tension between the world’s two largest economies as China’s move to let the yuan weaken stoked fears of a currency war. Investors are awaiting speeches from Federal Reserve policy makers this week after Chairman Jerome Powell said last month’s rate cut didn’t signal the start of a lengthy easing cycle.“Investors think a full confrontation or military clash between the U.S. and Iran is unlikely, but are more concerned about the possibility the U.S.-China situation will worsen,” said Jun Inoue, a senior economist at Mizuho Research Institute Ltd. in Tokyo. Oil prices could fall a lot further if the additional tariffs on China are imposed and the Fed doesn’t cut rates again, he said.See also: Trump Is Spooking Oil Markets More Than Iran: Julian LeeWest Texas Intermediate oil for September delivery fell 75 cents, or 1.4%, to $ 54.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange as of 7:23 a.m. in London after losing as much as 82 cents earlier. The contract dropped 1% last week and tumbled 7.9% on Thursday.Brent crude for October settlement declined 96 cents, or 1.6%, to $ 60.93 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe Exchange. It fell 2.5% last week. The global benchmark traded at a premium of $ 6.04 to WTI for the same month.Trump said Thursday he would impose a 10% tariff on a further $ 300 billion of Chinese imports, before saying the following day that the levies could be raised even further. Beijing pledged to respond. China has a “nuclear option” of depreciating its currency even further as a potential way of provoking the U.S., said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at IG Markets Ltd. in Melbourne.The ship taken by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards was carrying around 4,400 barrels of smuggled fuel when it was seized near Farsi Island in the western part of the Persian Gulf off Iran’s southwestern coast, Sepah News reported. Iran’s state-run Press TV reported that the seized ship is an Iraqi tanker that was delivering the fuel to some Arab countries in the Gulf. Iraq’s oil ministry denied it was one of theirs.\–With assistance from James Thornhill.To contact the reporter on this story: Tsuyoshi Inajima in Tokyo at tinajima@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Serene Cheong at scheong20@bloomberg.net, Andrew Janes, Ben SharplesFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.



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Afghan troop numbers drop sharply in crackdown on 'ghost' soldiers

Afghan troop numbers drop sharply in crackdown on 'ghost' soldiersThere has been a sharp drop in the size of Afghanistan’s National Defense Security Forces in the past few months due to changes in the way troops are counted and an effort to reduce the number of so-called “ghost” soldiers, a U.S. government watchdog said on Thursday. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report that ANDSF personnel size had gone down by nearly 10 percentage points in the most recent quarter compared to the previous trimester. The disclosure comes as Washington attempts to clinch a framework peace agreement with Taliban insurgents that is expected to include a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops, which now number about 14,000 in Afghanistan.



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The Democratic field is crowded with C-listers. It's time for some to drop out

The Democratic field is crowded with C-listers. It's time for some to drop outRelative nobodies like John Delaney and John Hickenlooper have taken up more airtime than the climate crisis during the debates. We deserve better‘If these and other candidates without a shot in hell at winning actually cared about the future of this country they would drop out.’ Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesMillions of Americans don’t know who John Delaney or John Hickenlooper are. They probably wouldn’t be able to correctly identify them in a photo. And yet, at the Democratic debate on Tuesday night, Delaney got to speak for nearly 11 minutes, and John Hickenlooper for almost nine. In one night, those two relatively unknown men combined got more airtime than the climate crisis has in all three debates thus far. And that’s despite the fact that, if we don’t do anything to address rising temperatures now, we will see several US cities underwater in the coming decades.So here’s my pitch: if these and other candidates without a shot in hell at winning actually cared about the future of this country, they would drop out.There are plenty of substantive differences among the viable candidates that deserve to be explored in depth, on just about every issue raised at Tuesday’s debate – healthcare, immigration, climate, gun violence – plus many more. And while it’s great for the ratings of networks like CNN, it’s not exactly a boon to American democracy to watch a stage flanked with unrecognizable C-list primary hopefuls pad their own egos because they’re rich or well-connected enough to meet the debate criteria.That’s not to say that there isn’t a case to be made for longshot candidates. Though Jay Inslee is unlikely to get the nomination, his detailed climate policy releases are invaluable resources for any future administration and set a high standard for other candidates on an issue that growing numbers of Americans are deeply concerned about.And I’m one of many that would love to see the Alaska senator-turned-internet-phenomenon Mike Gravel appear on stage and give voice to the millions of teens who are unable to vote. The DNC shouldn’t limit the field with stricter criteria to keep them out. But Delaney and other visionless outliers should have the humility to know that they’re adding next to nothing to the conversation besides hot air. And moderators should have the good sense not to let them drone on, let alone pivot whole debate topics around them.Consider the start of Tuesday night’s all-too-brief exchange on climate. In one of a long string of questions that might as well have been crafted by a Republican strategist, the moderator Jake Tapper asked Delaney what he thinks is unrealistic about the Green New Deal, a policy framework that most frontrunners, besides Joe Biden, have endorsed. The result was an extended detour into his half-baked plan for a bipartisan carbon tax and experimental technologies.You wouldn’t be wrong to say my frustration with Delaney and his ilk is a little misplaced; please forgive the weariness of a politics writer staring down the barrel of another 16 months of the horse race. But if progressives like me are angry with people like Delaney and Hickenlooper – who hold close ties to the healthcare and mining industry, respectively – it’s because they and their friends already enjoy such outsized influence over our political system.It’s thanks in no small part to the lobbying of the healthcare industry Delaney defended in the debate that America’s healthcare system is as broken as it is, and why this country hasn’t managed to catch up with other wealthy nations in providing care to everyone who needs it. It’s thanks to Hickenlooper’s buddies in the oil and gas sector that we’re only now even starting to have a serious conversation about what it will look like to curb climate breakdown at the scale that challenge deserves.It’s also for those reasons that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren’s gloves-off approach to these problems and the millionaires driving them is so appealing, to young Democrats especially. We’ve heard enough from elites dipping their toes into politics when it suits them. Instead, we want candidates who will call the one per cent’s influence over our politics and economy what it is: absurd, undemocratic and even – as Sanders said of the fossil fuel industry tonight – criminal. * Kate Aronoff is a freelance journalist covering climate and US politics



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