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Vladimir Putin: Why the Russian president’s skiing joke is not the only part of his speech to hark back to the Soviet era

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Vladimir Putin’s skiing joke may hark back to the Soviet era – but so did a lot of his speech

Warnings of nuclear war fuelled by the Western war-mongers, praise for Russian entrepreneurs and troops serving in Ukraine, a drive to encourage women to have more babies – and health advice to stop drinking and start skiing: it was all there in Vladimir Putin’s annual state of the nation address, which was beamed into Russian households on Thursday morning.

Even those who weren’t at home will not have had an opportunity to miss it: the national address was projected onto large buildings and cinemas opened their doors for free to ensure everyone had access to the two hour speech.

While the speech held few surprises, with plenty of criticism of Western allies and rhetoric which booted morale around the invasion of Ukraine, around half of it was dedicated to more mundane domestic policies such as investment in culture and education and changes to taxation.

He warned that the West was responsible for creating a potential nuclear conflict which could lead to the “destruction of civilisation” and, in an ominous, but not uncharacteristic message, said any countries considering lending their troops to support Ukraine on the war would face “tragic” consequences.

He also praised Russian entrepreneurs who had stepped in to run businesses which replaced western brands which pulled out of Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, such as Starbucks and McDonalds.

When it came to the invasion, Mr Putin unusually moved away from his conventional language of a “special operation” to describe it as a “war”.

“We did not start this war in Donbas,” he insisted, going on to bring out the old trope of his aim to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

One thing he did not speak about, unsurprisingly, was the death of Alexei Navalny, the opposition politician who died while serving time in a penal colony in Siberia – four years after surviving a poisoning attempt. Mr Navalny’s funeral is due to take place in Moscow on Friday.

In a wider policy sweep, he also tackled Russia’s health problems, including alcohol.

“Everyone remembers the joke: stop drinking and start skiing,” he said, referencing a Soviet-era motto.

I’m not quite sure what the joke is, but it’s probably not bad advice for a nation which, according to the US-based Jamestown Foundation think tank, has increased its alcohol consumption to 2.3 billion litres since the start of the conflict with Ukraine.

However, his skiing joke – which hopefully works better in Russian – was not the only Soviet element to his speech.

A new initiative, Family, will encourage women to have more babies to populate Mother Russia, in an echo of a similar Stalin-era policy, while Mr Putin’s nuclear threats trigger not-too-distant memories of the Cold War era.

There is no doubt Mr Putin will win next month’s elections, he will make sure of it.

But whether returning Russia to Soviet policies will be popular with the country’s citizens, remains to be seen.

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‘Pity us’: Desperate Gazans reel from aid trucks ‘massacre’

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February 29, 2024
— Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

The crowd flocked to the aid distribution point early Thursday, desperate for food amid Gaza’s looming famine, only to be met with lethal chaos including live fire by Israeli troops.

By mid-afternoon more than 100 people were reported dead in the grisly incident which underscored worsening shortages in the besieged Palestinian territory.

All told, Thursday’s “massacre” at Gaza City’s Nabulsi roundabout killed 104 people and wounded 760, said Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for Hamas-run Gaza’s health ministry.

Just hours, earlier the Palestinian death toll from the nearly five-month-old war in Gaza had topped 30,000.

But there were conflicting reports on what exactly was responsible for Thursday’s deaths.

Qudra blamed Israeli troops, and Israeli sources confirmed to AFP that the Israeli forces at the scene did open fire, having perceived the crowds near the trucks as a “threat”.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, however, said many of the dead were crushed by the trucks themselves.

“Aid trucks were overwhelmed by people trying to loot and drivers ploughed into the crowd of people, ultimately killing tens of people,” said the spokesman, Avi Hyman.

A young Palestinian man who was among the wounded spoke of chaotic scenes.

“There were crowds of people, but the occupation (forces) kept firing towards us,” the man told AFP while lying on the dirty, crowded floor at Kamal Adwan Hospital waiting for treatment

Outside, four women in headscarves wailed while clutching at the lifeless body of a bearded man wrapped in white cloth, while men lined up to pray nearby.

At Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, doctors were “unable to deal” with the flood of casualties “as a result of weak medical and human capacities,” Qudra said.

Hamas, whose unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel kicked off the war, denounced what it described as a “hideous and heinous” massacre.

– ‘Storming’ scarce trucks –

The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s withering military response has now killed at least 30,035 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry, which does not specify how many fighters are included in the toll.

The offensive has caused widespread devastation in Gaza and severe shortages of food, water and medicine.

For months, aid workers have warned of an increasingly desperate situation for Gazan civilians, and on Monday an official from the UN humanitarian office OCHA said widespread starvation was “almost inevitable”.

UN estimates show that 2.2 million people — the vast majority of Gaza’s population — are threatened with famine, particularly in the north where destruction, fighting and looting make the delivery of food almost impossible.

According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, just over 2,300 aid trucks have entered the Gaza Strip in February, down by around 50 percent compared to January.

That is an average of well below 100 trucks per day, down from around 500 that were entering daily before the war.

It was precisely that scarcity that drove crowds to rush the trucks at Nabulsi roundabout on Thursday, a witness told AFP.

Aerial footage distributed by the Israeli military showed large groups approaching a line of moving trucks on foot.

“Trucks full of aid came too close to some army tanks that were in the area and the crowd, thousands of people, just stormed the trucks,” the witness said, declining to be named for safety reasons.

“The soldiers fired at the crowd as people came too close to the tanks.”

– ‘Under siege’ –

Thursday’s incident in Gaza City spurred a heated exchange at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Mohammad Khraishi confronted his Israeli counterpart about the reported casualties.

“Are these human shields? Are these Hamas combatants?” Khraishi asked.

Israel says it wants to eliminate Hamas, but diplomats are scrambling to broker a truce before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is set to begin on March 10 or March 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

At Kamal Adwan hospital, a Palestinian woman checking on relatives caught up in the chaos at Nabulsi roundabout said the world should “take pity” on Gazans.

“My nephews went there to bring flour, but they (Israeli forces) fired on them,” said the woman, who did not give her name.

“We are under siege. Take pity on us. Ramadan is coming soon. People should look at us. Pity us.”

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Russia to host 3-day ‘Palestinian Unity’ talks in Moscow

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The Russian government will host “inter-Palestinian talks” with representatives from 14 Palestinian factions taking part in discussions about how to resolve Hamas’ war against Israel in Gaza.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Envoy for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov will host the three-day meeting in Moscow, scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Among the Palestinian groups expected to participate in the meetings are leaders from the Hamas terrorist organization, Fatah party leaders from the Palestinian Authority (PA), leaders from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), as well as representatives from Syria, Lebanon and other Middle East nations in the region.

According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), the Kremlin wants to increase its influence in the Middle East by bringing leaders from the Arab world to Moscow for the high-level talks.

FDD Research Fellow Ivana Stradner, an expert analyst in the region, said the hosting of ‘Palestinian Unity’ is the latest propaganda coming out of Moscow and believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin “wants to portray himself as a peacemaker while demonizing the West as a warmongering, destabilizing force.”

“Moscow’s cynical offer to mediate the Gaza war should be understood for what it is: a farce,” she added.

Senior Research Analyst for FDD’s Long War Journal Joe Truzman believes that the Palestinian terror groups “view Russia as a valuable ally” to elevate their international status and “assist them in becoming the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people that are backed by a world superpower.”

Russia has consistently shown support for Hamas and the Palestinian cause, even after the Hamas terror organization for its brutal attack on Israeli southern border communities on Oct. 7, the same day that Putin celebrated his 71st birthday.

On Oct. 13, less than one week after the brutal massacre on Israeli soil, the Russian president likened Israel’s military operations in Gaza to Hitler’s Nazi Germany overtaking of Leningrad during World War II.

Just weeks later, Russia hosted a delegation of senior Hamas terror officials in Moscow. After that meeting, Hamas released a statement thanking Moscow for its efforts to end “the crimes of Israel that are supported by the West.”

In November, amid the war against Hamas in Gaza, Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya claimed Israel did not have the right to self-defense as an “occupying power,” ignoring the fact that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

In December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticized the Russian government’s “dangerous cooperation” with Iran in a phone call with Putin.

Earlier this week, Russia’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyansky falsely accused the Jewish state of targeting civilians in the Gaza Strip.

“Together with the United Nations we will resist Israel’s attempts to present killing of civilians in Gaza in blatant violation of international humanitarian law as fight with terrorists,” Polyansky stated.

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Palestinian unity on agenda as Hamas, Fatah leaders to meet in Moscow

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Representatives from Palestinian political factions, including Hamas and Fatah, are expected to meet in the Russian capital, Moscow, to discuss the formation of a unified Palestinian government amid Israel’s war on Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 people.

Al Jazeera’s Yulia Shapovalova, reporting from Moscow, said on Thursday that while there was a lot of “uncertainty” about the meeting, it is expected to last three days for the factions to develop a “unified strategy”.

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“Russia has previously held similar meetings, so we know that this time around, this is the fourth meeting of its kind, and obviously they [will] try to help to achieve reconciliation between all these Palestinian factions,” Shapovalova said.

Speaking from Moscow, Mustafa Barghouti, the secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, said that he had “never seen the atmosphere so close to unity as it is today… because people feel the responsibility after all these massacres that our people have been subjected to”.

Barghouti told Al Jazeera that the talks would focus on future national consensus government, which would “[devote] its attention and its work mainly to alleviate this terrible suffering in Gaza” and prevent “Israeli effrts to enforce ethnic cleansing on the people of Gaza”.

“There is a general feeling of responsibility here,” said Barghouti. “We are not talking about something that will end in two days, we are talking about an initiation of a process that hopefully will lead eventually to complete unity within the ranks of a unified Palestinian leadership.”

Ahead of the meeting, Palestinian Minister for Foreign Affairs Riad Malki said on Wednesday that he did not expect “miracles” from the meeting.

“We hope that there might be good results in terms of mutual understanding between all factions about the need to support such a technocratic government that will emerge,” Malki said.

“Of course, we don’t expect miracles to happen in just a simple meeting in Moscow, but I believe that the meeting in Moscow should be followed by other meetings in the region soon.”

Palestinian PMPalestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in Munich, Germany, on February 19, 2024 [Anna NNA Szilagyi/EPA]

Government resignation

The meeting comes days after Palestinian Authority (PA) Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced the resignation of his government, which governs parts of the occupied West Bank. He gave the escalating violence in the occupied territory and the war in Gaza as the reasons behind his resignation.

“I see that the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political arrangements that take into account the new reality in Gaza and the need for a Palestinian-Palestinian consensus based on Palestinian unity and the extension of unity of authority over the land of Palestine,” he said on Monday.

Shtayyeh, who will stay in his position as a caretaker until a new prime minister is announced, said the new administration would need to take into account the emerging reality in Gaza after five months of intense Israeli bombardments.

But his resignation signalled a shift that underlines President Mahmoud Abbas’s desire to ensure the PA maintains its claim to leadership as international pressure grows for a revival of efforts to create a Palestinian state.

However, the PA, created 30 years ago as part of the Oslo Peace Accords, has suffered widespread criticism about its effectiveness, with its leaders having little practical power. It is deeply unpopular among Palestinians.

But Malki, who spoke on the sidelines of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, said the government’s resignation had been designed to prevent international partners from saying that the PA was not collaborating.

“We want to show our readiness … to engage and to be ready, just to not to be seen as an obstacle between the implementation of any process that should take further,” he said.

Israel has previously said it would not accept the PA to rule over Gaza after the war and promised to “destroy” Hamas after its October 7 attack, which killed 1,139 Israelis.

In the five months of the war, about 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s response to the attack, the Ministry of Health in Gaza reported.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Limping Putin looks strained & sickly during nuke speech, expert says

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VLADIMIR Putin looked pale and sickly as he rambled on for more than two hours in front of a rigid audience, a body language analyst has said.

Professor Erik Bucy told The Sun that the raging tyrant “limped” up to the podium before straining to present a “strongman saviour” front to his glazed listeners.

Putin delivered a ridiculous two-hour speech in Russia today where he threatened the West with nuclear power


Putin delivered a ridiculous two-hour speech in Russia today where he threatened the West with nuclear powerCredit: Reuters

His vast audience wore glazed expressions and even drifted off during the address


His vast audience wore glazed expressions and even drifted off during the address



Mad Vlad today gave a disturbing annual state of the nation address and warned the West about Russia’s nuclear power.

The 71-year-old dictator said consequences for “potential invaders” would be “tragic”, and threatened the “danger of nuclear conflict”.

He bragged about Russia’s Satan-2 nuclear rocket and said the West could be destroyed on its “own territory”.

The long and tedious speech comes ahead of the country’s bogus elections, where he is undoubtedly set to secure another term as dictator.

Dwarfed by enormous staging and hidden behind his podium, Professor Bucy told The Sun today’s speech was Putin’s weak attempt to come across as the “strongman”, and “lone saviour” of Russia.

Instead he appears isolated, and sickly as he limps up to the podium.

Over the next two hours, Bucy says, he consistently shifts his weight from one foot to the other, without ever stepping away from the podium.

His face appears “puffy and pale” and he is “not the portrait of health”.

Professor Bucy said: “Interestingly, Putin walked out to the podium on his own, but the camera shot was set back so you could not see his gait close up.

“It appeared that he was favoring one leg and walking with a slight limp. He doesn’t ever step away from the podium and none of his body behind the stand is visible for anyone to see.

“But he does appear to shift his weight from one side to the other, sharing the strain on his legs to hold himself up.”

The isolated position on the stage, Bucy explains, is an attempt to paint him as “the sole political voice of the nation, alone on a vast stage, communicating the only official view of the nation allowed”.

Throughout the gruelling address – countless Russian elites sit stock-still with frosted expressions or smile blandly and clap when expected.

His obviously staged audience serves to solidify any warped perceptions of being the voice and saviour of Russia.

Professor Bucy told The Sun: “On occasion throughout the speech, muted applause fills the arena in response to Putin’s statements.

“The tone is polite and deferential, as if the audience was coached on what level their applause should be.

“This orchestrated, group response is the only form of reaction the audience engages in.”

Putin, he said, also looks down frequently at his speech, which is “rife with disinformation designed to vilify the west while justifying his regime’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine”.

“Putin speaks at a rapid clip, shooting out words so as to maintain a sense of urgency.

“The faster he speaks, the more in command of the situation he tries to position himself—and the less time there is for the hand-picked audience to reflect on or question what he is saying.”

“Those in attendance are noticeably careful not to show any disapproving or negative facial expressions in response to what’s said.

“Even the raising of an eyebrow could be construed as an anti-Putin gesture and isn’t worth the risk.”

And the vast stadium-like set up for the address serves to send a message about “Putin’s sole importance as the head of government and the vast distance between himself and anyone else”.

Hundreds of Russians were gathered to obediently listen to his speech today


Hundreds of Russians were gathered to obediently listen to his speech today

Putin half-hobbled onto the stage with a 'limp' before beginning his ridiculous speech


Putin half-hobbled onto the stage with a ‘limp’ before beginning his ridiculous speechCredit: Reuters

The Russian elites who came to hear him speak barely reacted during the two-hour address


The Russian elites who came to hear him speak barely reacted during the two-hour address

He was dwarfed on stage but the lavish set-up


He was dwarfed on stage but the lavish set-up

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Новая “шестилетка” Путина

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Послание Путина Федеральному Собранию обсуждают Николай Петров и Сергей Ерофеев

Владимир Путин обратился с посланием к Федеральному собранию, но по сути, за две недели до выборов, огласил свою президентскую программу. Элитами станут участники так называемой спецоперации, Западу надо опасаться “Сарматов”, а россиянам терпеть, потому что, по словам Путина “Мы — одна большая семья и хотим сделать, как мечтаем”. Это и прочие обещания Владимира Путина в эфире обсудят политолог Николай Петров и социолог Сергей Ерофеев. Ведущий Артём Радыгин

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Palestinian deaths in Gaza pass 30,000 as witnesses say Israeli forces fire on crowd waiting for aid

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Israeli strikes over central Gaza late Wednesday killed at least 20 people, including five women and two children. Dozens of men held prayers for the deceased, wrapped traditionally in white shrouds, outside al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al-Balah. (AP Video: Abd Al Kareem Hana/Wafaa Shurafa)


Updated [hour]:[minute] [AMPM] [timezone], [monthFull] [day], [year]  

RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli troops fired on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza City on Thursday, witnesses said. More than 100 people were killed, bringing the death toll since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, according to health officials.

Hospital officials initially reported an Israeli strike on the crowd, but witnesses later said Israeli troops opened fire as people pulled flour and canned goods off of trucks.

The Israeli military declined to provide an on-the-record statement about the role of troops in the incident.

Gaza City and the surrounding areas in the enclave’s north were the first targets of Israel’s air, sea and ground offensive, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. The area has suffered widespread devastation and has been largely isolated during the conflict. Trucks carrying food reached northern Gaza this week, the first major aid delivery to the area in a month, officials said Wednesday.

Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian assistance in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, with crowds of desperate people overwhelming aid convoys. The U.N. says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation; around 80% have fled their homes.

Kamel Abu Nahel, who was being treated for a gunshot wound at Shifa Hospital, said he and others went to the distribution point in the middle of the night because they heard there would be a delivery of food. “We’ve been eating animal feed for two months,” he said.

He said Israeli troops opened fire on the crowd, causing it to scatter, with some people hiding under cars. After the shooting stopped, they went back to the trucks, and the soldiers opened fire again. He was shot in the leg and fell over, and then a truck ran over his leg as it sped off, he said.

Medics arriving at the scene on Thursday found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground, according to Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at Kamal Adwan Hospital. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals in donkey carts.

In addition to at least 104 people killed, around 760 were wounded, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said. The Health Ministry described it as a “massacre.”

Separately, the Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,035, with another 70,457 wounded. It does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.

The ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, maintains detailed records of casualties. Its counts from previous wars have largely matched those of the U.N., independent experts and even Israel’s own tallies.

The Hamas attack into southern Israel that ignited the war killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the militants seized around 250 hostages. Hamas and other militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of about 30 more, after releasing most of the other captives during a November cease-fire.

The increasing alarm over hunger across Gaza has fueled international calls for another cease-fire, and the U.S., Egypt and Qatar are working to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas for a pause in fighting and the release of some of the hostages.

Mediators hope to reach an agreement before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts around March 10. But so far, Israel and Hamas have remained far apart in public on their demands.

Meanwhile, U.N. officials have warned of further mass casualties if Israel follows through on vows to attack the southernmost city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has taken refuge. They also say a Rafah offensive could decimate what remains of aid operations.

Several hundred thousand Palestinians are believed to remain in northern Gaza despite Israeli orders to evacuate the area in October, and many have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive. The U.N. says one in 6 children under 2 in the north suffer from acute malnutrition and wasting.

COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, said around 50 aid trucks entered nothern Gaza this week. It was unclear who delivered the aid. Some countries have meanwhile resorted to airdrops in recent days.

The World Food Program said earlier this month that it was pausing deliveries to the north because of the growing chaos, after desperate Palestinians emptied a convoy while it was en route.

Since launching its assault on Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing. Despite international calls to allow in more aid, the number of supply trucks is far less than the 500 that came in daily before the war.

COGAT said Wednesday that Israel does not impose limits on the amount of aid entering. Israel has blamed U.N. agencies for the bottleneck, saying hundreds of trucks are waiting on the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom for aid workers to collect them.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Wednesday countered by saying large trucks entering Gaza have to be unloaded and reloaded onto smaller ones, but there aren’t enough of them and there’s a lack of security to distribute aid in Gaza.

Hamas-run police in Gaza stopped protecting convoys after Israeli strikes on them near the crossing.


Chehayeb reported from Beirut.


Find more of AP’s coverage at

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Putin, Trump, Netanyahu: When Pure Narcissism Triggers Global Catastrophe

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on June 12, 2023


BOGOTÁ — Was it better before when dictatorships didn’t claim to be anything other than a dictatorship — or are we better off now when they pretend to be democracies? Who knows which is worse, but it’s a real question worth considering.

The new crypto dictatorships must, necessarily, limit their abuses and validate themselves with elections, though their faux lawfulness also makes it more difficult to fight them. We might call these revamped thug regimes “degraded” democracies, and cite Venezuela as a perfect example today.

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There, President Nicolás Maduro insists every day that he is no dictator, and the problem is with people like Rocío San Miguel — a lawyer and activist recently detained — who act as traitors, subversives and terrorists.

You are not just being asked to believe the tale of yet another plot underway against the Venezuelan state, but may even become an offender if you refuse to do so. Others recently arrested alongside San Miguel include soldiers, which does indicate that there is discontent among the military. Now, whether it is big or small, static or swelling, is also hard to say.

For reasons that are not yet clear, the dictatorship has not yet moved to arrest the country’s de facto opposition chief, María Corina Machado, whom the regime has accused of being the leading plotter. San Miguel is not as well known as Machado, which meant the international reactions to her arrest were subdued.

Any poll could produce an avalanche of anti-regime votes.

There is a problem for the rulers in any degraded democracy: the need to eventually hold elections, even if they will be a brazen sham. Take Cuba: they have elections all the time, which in times past were inevitably won by one or the other of the Castro brothers. You might say oppression is easy on an island, whereas today in Venezuela elections may prove risky and unpredictable.

The situation has evolved to the point where any poll could produce an avalanche of anti-regime votes, in spite of the restricted options and removal of the best known opposition names and candidates. So, if Corina Machado (currently banned) were to urge Venezuelans to vote for some unknown person, that candidate would romp to victory.

Social and every other type of media would help spread the word, even if the dictator will do all to stifle it and declare himself victor. In other words, while the country’s last ruler, the late Hugo Chávez was able to win himself votes, Maduro is not.

With the expulsion of UN human rights observers, one wonders, is more repression in the offing? It seems like it. For some reason people claim the regime is keen to hold elections “soon” even if no date has yet been given.

He could just say “No” to the whole thing.

Does the regime stand to gain anything from hastening elections? That is unlikely, and in any case, both the timing and holding of elections depend on Maduro’s whims. He could just say “No” to the whole thing. The other option is for him to take a path similar to the one taken by his compadre, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, meaning a full-blown clampdown. That would entail problems for the regime, which has already lost much of the foreign support it enjoyed.

One of the continent’s best respected socialist figures, the former Uruguayan president José Mujica, no longer has qualms about calling Maduro a dictator. Or as one Chilean journalist, Julio Salviat, has said, that plot Maduro denounces as “intended to oust him from power is called: holding free elections.”

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Trump is disqualified from Illinois ballot, judge rules

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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at Winthrop Coliseum ahead of the South Carolina Republican presidential primary in Rock Hill, South Carolina, U.S., February 23, 2024. 

An Illinois state judge on Wednesday barred Donald Trump from appearing on the Illinois’ Republican presidential primary ballot because of his role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, but she delayed her ruling from taking effect in light of an expected appeal by the former U.S. president.

Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter sided with Illinois voters who argued that the former president should be disqualified from the state’s March 19 primary ballot and its Nov. 5 general election ballot for violating the anti-insurrection clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

The final outcome of the Illinois case and similar challenges will likely be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard arguments related to Trump’s ballot eligibility on Feb. 8.

Porter said she was staying her decision because she expected his appeal to Illinois’ appellate courts, and a potential ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The advocacy group Free Speech For People, which spearheaded the Illinois disqualification effort, praised the ruling as a “historic victory” in a statement.

A campaign spokesperson for Trump, the national frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, said in a statement this “is an unconstitutional ruling that we will quickly appeal.”

Colorado and Maine earlier removed Trump from their state ballots after determining he is disqualified under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Both decisions are on hold while Trump appeals.

Section 3 bars from public office anyone who took an oath to support the U.S. Constitution and then has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, attacked police and swarmed the Capitol in a bid to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory. Trump gave an incendiary speech to supporters beforehand, telling them to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” He then for hours did not act on requests that he urge the mob to stop.

The Supreme Court is currently weighing Trump’s challenge to his Colorado disqualification. The justices in Washington appeared skeptical of the decision during oral arguments in the case, expressing concerns about states taking sweeping actions that could affect the national election.

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Putin, Netanyahu discuss pardon for U.S.-Israeli woman jailed in Russia – AOL

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Putin, Netanyahu discuss pardon for U.S.-Israeli woman jailed in Russia  AOL

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