FROM Dimitri K. Simes
Russian Democracy and Putin's Power Politics He's seen in the West as a throwback to the days of the Soviet Union: centralized power, control of the media, stifling of political opposition. But since Vladimir Putin was elected President , the economy has been booming and his combative behavior has persuaded Russians they're back as a world power. Putin has turned this weekend's parliamentary elections into a referendum on his two terms as President. Opposition rallies have been broken up, and leaders have been jailed. Former chess champion Gary Kasparov was sentenced to five days for protesting the conduct of the election. With the Kremlin determined to boost the turnout, many Russians say they're being pressured to vote at work, with the implicit threat of losing their jobs if they don't support Putin's party, United Russia . Will this weekend's parliamentary elections consolidate Putin's power, even as the Constitution requires him to step down? Will US and Russian relations continue to deteriorate, while both countries undergo political transitions?
Venezuela spirals into economic and political chaos Venezuela, a country whose potential for prosperity is unmatched, finds itself on the verge of civil war. What sustains the repressive government? With time running out, guest host León Krauze looks at what the international community can do to pull the country from the edge of collapse.
Who's to blame for the opioid crisis? Some of the lawyers who took on Big Tobacco are now going after Big Pharma. It’s all about the deadly epidemic of opioid use. Are the drug companies to blame? What about the users? Later, on today’s Talking Point: making sense of Britain’s upset election.
Ex-FBI Director Comey tells his side of the story Today, former FBI Director James Comey came close to calling the President who fired him a liar. The White House denied the claim and called it insulting, but Republican Senators did not challenge Comey’s truthfulness. Many questions remain: did the President try to obstruct a federal investigation? Later, we’ll go behind the “velvet rope” for a look at 5-Star health care for the richest Americans.