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Putin announces 2018 re-election bid, ends long speculation

Published: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 10:04 AM
Updated: Wednesday, December 06, 2017 @ 10:03 AM

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he would seek re-election next year in a race he is poised to win easily, putting him on track to become the nation's longest-serving ruler since Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Putin's approval ratings regularly top 80 percent, making him all but certain to win the March election by a broad margin. While few doubted the 65-year-old leader would run, the delay in his declaring so fueled some conspiracy theories and was seen as the Kremlin's political maneuvering.

The 65-year-old Russian leader's potential rivals include several luckless candidates from past contests and a notable newcomer — TV host Ksenia Sobchak, 36, the daughter of Putin's one-time boss.

The president chose to make his re-election announcement at the GAZ automobile factory in the city of Nizhny Novgorod. The factory is a symbol of Russian's industrial might, and Putin found an enthusiastic audience in the blue-collar workers who make up the core of his base.

"I couldn't find a better place and moment," he said to massive applause at the plant. "Thank you for your support. I will run for president."

For months, Putin fended off questions about his plans for 2018, fueling speculation about why he would not say if he would seek re-election. Some theorized he might step down and name a preferred successor.

The Kremlin has been worried about growing voter apathy, and the uncertainty over Putin's plans seemed intended to encourage public interest in the race.

"It was necessary to ensure electoral mobilization," Dmitry Orlov, a political consultant close to the Kremlin, said in televised remarks.

Putin has been in power in Russia since 2000. He served two presidential terms during 2000-2008, then shifted into the prime minister's seat because of term limits. As prime minister, he still called the shots while his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, served as the placeholder president.

Medvedev had the president's term extended to six years and then stepped down to let Putin reclaim the office in 2012. If Putin serves another six-year term, which would run through 2024, he would reach the milestone of having the longest tenure since Stalin, who ruled for nearly 30 years.

Earlier Wednesday, Putin was asked about his intentions at a meeting with young volunteers in Moscow. He said he would decide shortly, then showed up at the GAZ factory making his announcement.

The plant is one of the country's most emblematic industrial giants. It was built during the Soviet industrialization drive in 1932 and has churned out millions of vehicles, from vans and military trucks to Volga sedans and luxury cars for the Soviet elite.

"Thank you for your work, for your attitude to your jobs, your factory, your city and your country!" Putin told factory workers. "I'm sure that together we will succeed."

A stream of fawning comments from officials and lawmakers followed his declaration.

Chechnya's regional leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, hailed the president's announcement, saying on Instagram that only Putin can "resist a massive shameless and unprecedented" pressure by the West.

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Putin's decision helped end "anxiety and tensions in the society."

The upper house is expected to authorize the start of formal election campaigning later this month.

Veterans of past campaigns — Communist chief Gennady Zyuganov, ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and liberal leader Grigory Yavlinsky — all have declared their intention to run. They will likely be joined by Sobchak, a well-known television host who is the daughter of the late St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who was Putin's boss in the 1990s.

"I don't trust a system where Putin makes all decisions," said Sobchak, who also met with voters in Nizhny Novgorod Wednesday. "Let's believe in our ability to change the situation."

The most visible Putin foe, Alexei Navalny, also wants to join the race, even though a conviction he calls politically motivated bars him from running. He has organized a grassroots campaign and staged rallies across Russia to raise pressure on the government to allow him to run.

In a signal that the Kremlin isn't going to budge, Navalny's campaign chief, Leonid Volkov, last week was sentenced to a month in jail for staging an unauthorized rally in Nizhny Novgorod. Navalny himself spent 20 days in jail in October for organizing another rally.

"The best illustration of how elections work in Russia is my campaign chief Leonid Volkov sitting in jail just one kilometer (less than a mile) from the venue where Putin declared his bid," Navalny tweeted.

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VIDEO: Skiers forced to jump off ski lift after malfunction

Published: Friday, March 16, 2018 @ 12:03 PM

Skiers were forced to jump for their lives and others were flung off a ski lift at a Georgian ski resort after a serious malfunction.

Skiers were forced to jump for their lives and others were flung off a ski lift at a Georgian ski resort after a serious malfunction.

At least eight people were injured in the incident according to local media, there were no fatalities. 

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Holiday makers were travelling downhill at the Gudauri ski resort when the ski lift went out of control and started to pick up speed moving backwards. A video of the incident showed horrified onlookers shouting in panic as people were thrown off the lift. 

Local media reported that a Swede and Ukrainian were among those hurt. 

LOCAL CRIME: Fairborn woman accused of stealing $116K from Moraine business

The Mountain Resort Development Company of the Ministry of Economy of Georgia stated that they had contacted the ski-lift producer, Georgian media said.

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Kathmandu plane crash: At least 50 dead, several injured, officials say

Published: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 1:08 PM
Updated: Monday, March 12, 2018 @ 1:08 PM

At Least 38 Killed In Plane Crash In Nepal

A passenger plane caught fire, then crashed while landing at Nepal’s Kathmandu airport Monday.

 >> PHOTOS: Kathmandu plane crash kills dozens, Nepal police say

>> Read more trending news 

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Experts see Trump, North Korea leader meeting risky, hopeful

Published: Sunday, March 11, 2018 @ 7:15 PM

            A protester stands to oppose the United States’ policies against North Korea near U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 9, 2018. After months of trading insults and threats of nuclear annihilation, Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un by the end of May to negotiate an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, South Korean and U.S. officials said Thursday. No sitting American president has ever met with a North Korea leader. The signs read: “Oppose Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) .” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
            Ahn Young-joon
A protester stands to oppose the United States’ policies against North Korea near U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 9, 2018. After months of trading insults and threats of nuclear annihilation, Trump agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un by the end of May to negotiate an end to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program, South Korean and U.S. officials said Thursday. No sitting American president has ever met with a North Korea leader. The signs read: “Oppose Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) .” (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)(Ahn Young-joon)

Local reaction Friday to news that North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump plan to meet in May for nuclear disarmament talks seemed to fall under the same category: surprise, skepticism and a belief it never would have happened a few months ago.

The whiplash development could put two leaders who’ve repeatedly insulted, threatened and dismissed each other in the same room, possibly in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang.

It comes after Kim has referred to Trump as a “senile dotard” and Trump has repeatedly referred to the North Korean leader as “Little Rocket Man.” The possible summit would also take place as the North snaps off regular weapons tests in a dogged march toward its goal of a viable nuclear arsenal that can threaten the U.S. mainland.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who some believe has maneuvered the two leaders to this position, called it an “historical milestone” that will put the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula “really on track.”

But the White House on Friday seemed to pull back on the initial announcement, saying North Korea must meet “concrete and verifiable steps” before the meeting could take place.

Former Dayton Congressman Tony Hall, who has made several trips to North Korea, said a meeting between the two leaders would be hopeful after a barrage of insults.

“We were very close to being in a very, very touchy situation where both leaders were yelling back and fourth and calling each other names and that wasn’t a good situation,” said Hall, a Democrat. “The United States has nothing to lose by two leaders sitting down and talking about nuclear disarmament.”

RELATED: Experts divided on how to handle North Korea Still, there is plenty of skepticism about what the meeting might accomplish.

North Korea has made a habit of reaching out, after raising fears during previous crises, with offers of dialogue meant to win aid and concessions, experts point out. Some speculate that the North is trying to peel Washington away from its ally in Seoul, weaken crippling sanctions and buy time for nuclear development. It has also, from the U.S. point of view, repeatedly cheated on past nuclear deals.

Gary A. O’Connell, a retired chief scientist at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, said North Korea poses a “credible, growing” nuclear missile threat to the United States.

“Whether they have achieved everything they need to do is still unknown,” he said. “They’re certainly close, if not already there.”

Prestige bid

The meeting would mark the first time a sitting American president has met with a North Korean leader, noted Laura M. Luehrmann, Wright State University political science professor and director of the program in international and comparative politics.

“This is a prestige bid by Kim — Kim is inviting Trump to demonstrate that Kim’s investment in nuclear weapons and missile capability has brought the U.S. to a position of treating Kim Jong Un as an equal,” she said in an email.

RELATED: Greenville native sent to North Korea on UN relief mission Luehrmann said North Korea signaling it would suspend nuclear and missile tests prior to the talks is a positive, but the path forward could be perilous.

“What if these talks fail?” she asked. “Are we then in a more dangerous situation?”

“What does North Korea mean by the suggestion that it will consider denuclearization as a condition for these talks?” she added. “It seems highly unlikely that (Kim) would surrender the nuclear weapons program that has brought him to this point. Trump’s acceptance of Kim’s invitation very well may be the right thing to do at this point — it is far better than the threats to ‘push the button’ that we had earlier in the year. But it is also a major gamble.”

Senators Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown praised the development but insisted that Pyongyang must eventually give up its nuclear weapons program.

Portman, R-Ohio, said the United States should continue its robust economic sanctions against North Korea “until North Korea changes course and ends its dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons that threaten the United States and our allies.”

Brown, D-Ohio, called on Trump to “work with our allies to end North Korea’s nuclear program and I’m glad the sanctions Congress passed against North Korea helped bring Kim Jong-un to the table.”

Brown and Portman both supported a bill last year that imposed sanctions on North Korea for testing a long-range ballistic missile. The bill was approved following the death of Otto Warmbier of Wyoming, Ohio, after he had been held in a North Korean prison.

‘Not a breakthrough’

RELATED: Otto Warmbier remembered Donna Schlagheck, a retired Wright State professor, said Trump’s quick agreement to meet with the leader of the North Korean regime showed a disregard for decades of diplomatic procedures to reach a deal. She said she was “horrified” the meeting might deliver nothing to the United States.

“It’s not a breakthrough,” she said. “It’s another one of those moves out of left field. There is no diplomatic process of negotiations … to move the parties a little bit closer toward a common goal and there isn’t even a common goal.”

If the Trump administration is successful at getting North Korea to halt its nuclear weapons programs, it could be a boost for Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, said Glen Duerr, associate professor of international students at Cedarville University. It would likely be compared to former President Barack Obama’s decision to kill or captured Osama Bin Laden, he said.

“It could be the key that unlocks the door to 2020 (for Trump),” said Duerr. “It would be hard for any Democratic nominee to say they have better foreign policy ideas.”

Dayton a target?

Duerr warned that a nuclear war with North Korea could put Dayton on a list of targets because of Wright-Patterson. Dayton would likely be on the list for a second or third wave of attacks, he said.

“This is a powerful strategic center for the middle of the United States, so there is the potential at least, Duerr said but added: “It doesn’t worry me to the point that I’m moving to the mountains or to Kentucky.”

Hall, former executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, said North Korea has few resources and about 80 percent of its population lives in hunger.

“They’re going to put on a big show they are a powerful country and all that, but the fact is they are a country that is starving and we need to realize that when we got to peace talks with them,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

The story so far: President Donald Trump accepted North Korea’s invitation for direct talks with Kim Jong Un, to be held by May.

What’s new: Local experts react with surprise and skepticism mixed with hope, warning what might happen if the talks fail.

What’s next: Details, including whether North Korea will meet conditions set by the White House for the talks.

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Google celebrates International Women's Day with interactive doodle

Published: Wednesday, March 07, 2018 @ 1:05 PM

What You Need To Know: International Women’s Day

Have you peeped at Google? It’s all about International Women’s Day. 

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The search engine, which sometimes uses its homepage to honor important figures and events, is observing the occasion one day early with some interactive animation. 

Celebrated around the world every March 8, the holiday recognizes women’s social, economic, cultural and political achievements. It also serves as a call to action to accelerate gender parity.

When you visit Google, you can press the play button to dig through the personal narratives of a dozen women artists from around the global. The subjects, who were specially selected by the platform, shared their diverse experiences with visual drawings.

“Each story represents a moment, person, or event that has impacted their lives as women,” the site wrote in a statement. “While each artist tells a unique story, the themes are universal, reminding us of how much we often have in common.”

The works have been translated across more than 80 languages to inspire as many people as possible. And Google is encouraging others to post about their unique journeys using the hashtag #HerStoryOurStory on social media. 

Check out the doodle archive to see the animation, and take a look at the full list of participants below.

1. Anna Haifisch – “Nov 1989”

2. Chihiro Takeuchi – “Ages and Stages”

3. Estelí Meza – “My Aunt Blossoms”

4. Francesca Sanna – “The Box”

5. Isuri – “Aarthi the Amazing”

6. Karabo Poppy Moletsane – “Ntsoaki’s Victory”

7. Kaveri Gopalakrishnan – “Up on the Roof”

8. Laerte – “Love”

9. Philippa Rice – “Trust”

10. Saffa Khan – “Homeland”

11. Tillie Walden – “Minutes”

12. Tunalaya Dunn – “Inwards”

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