Vladimir Putin did not call Elton John and suggested they meet to discuss LGBT rights in Russia, but a lot of people believed that he did. On Monday, John wrote a post on Instagram saying that he had received the phone call. On Tuesday, the post went viral, penetrating even the Russian pro-government print media. By close of business, Putin’s spokesman denied that the call had ever taken place. On Wednesday, an experienced Russian prankster, nicknamed Vovan, released a recording of the conversation in which he impersonated Putin and his partner, nicknamed Lexus, impersonated the Russian president’s press secretary.
The Great Debate
President Barack Obama brought the U.S. commitment against torture into sharper focus on Wednesday. For a president who prohibited torture as one of his first official acts, this shouldn’t be news. But it is.
from John Lloyd:
In his original and argumentative history of the Anglo-American domination of the past three or more centuries, Walter Russell Mead writes that both the UK and the United States believed their imposition of a world order served the highest interests of humanity. From Oliver Cromwell’s denunciation of Spanish cruelty in the 1650s to Ronald Reagan’s characterisation of the Soviet Union as an evil empire in the 1980s, the two main Anglophone states have seen their global expansionism as a blessing for the world: what’s good for us is good for everyone.
President Barack Obama’s speech at the United Nations Wednesday offered to roll back the U.S. sanctions if Russia takes the “path of diplomacy and peace.” This overture comes on the heels of an emerging ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine and continuing discussions in Minsk to find a political solution to the turmoil in eastern Ukraine.
There has been some rare good news about the environment recently. One was hard to miss. On Sunday, roughly 300,000 people swelled the streets of midtown Manhattan in the People’s Climate March. It was not just the largest climate protest in history; it was the biggest U.S. political demonstration of any kind in more than a decade.
The world powers in November reached an interim deal with Iran to freeze and even roll back a portion of its nuclear program in exchange for some sanctions relief. The arrangement went into effect on Jan. 20 and is set to expire in six months. Another interim deal may be signed then, according to the agreement’s “Joint Plan of Action,” but the proposal calls for a comprehensive long-term solution by late January, 2015.
Three years ago this week, outside a makeshift polling station in Bentiu, South Sudan, I interviewed Riek Machar, vice president of the then semi-autonomous region. Machar had just cast his vote for South Sudan’s independence; I asked him what he would say to those who doubted that South Sudan, desperately underdeveloped and with experience of ethnic strife, could be a viable nation. “We will show them” he said, with a confident gap-toothed smile.