January 16, 2020

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 Propaganda
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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