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Putin to skip G8 summit in US next week

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WASHINGTON — Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will skip the G8 summit and ice breaker talks with President Barack Obama next week, the White House said, raising new questions about Moscow-Washington ties.

Putin had been expected at the summit at Camp David and to hold talks with the US leader in a first test of whether the “reset” policy between the Kremlin and the White House will survive his return to the presidency.

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Officials said here after a call between the two leaders, that Putin would send ex-president, and current Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, with whom Obama had a close relationship over the last three years, to the United States.

“Noting his responsibilities to finalize cabinet appointments in the new Russian government, President Putin expressed his regret that he would be unable to attend the G8 Summit,” the statement said.

The Kremlin confirmed Thursday Putin will miss the summit, but will meet Obama at the G20 summit in June in Mexico.

“The American side received this information with understanding,” it added. It also confirmed Putin would be represented by Medvedev.

The summit at Obama’s Camp David retreat on May 18-19 will also mark the international coming out party of new French president Francois Hollande,

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Putin’s move raised suspicions that there was already tension between the White House and Putin’s Kremlin, following an election campaign that saw the Russian leader fling angry rhetoric towards Washington.

But US officials noted that Obama’s National Security Advisor Tom Donilon spent two days in Moscow earlier this month where he met Putin and did not appear to believe there were sinister motives behind his decision to stay at home.

They said the US and Russian leaders will use the G20 summit in Mexico in June to get together instead, and the statement stressed the two sides wanted to work on common interests, despite differences in some areas.

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It said that the two leaders welcomed the “reset” of relations and noted “substantial progress” during the last three years on issues like nuclear security, nuclear non-proliferation, Afghanistan, trade and commercial ties.

The Kremlin earlier reported Obama’s call with Putin but did not mention the Russian leader’s no-show at Camp David.

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Putin’s non-arrival will dampen hopes for any progress on ending the violence in Syria, an ally of Russia, which has blocked the most punitive attempts to sanction President Bashar al-Assad’s at the UN.

Washington and Moscow have also been increasingly at odds over the issue of a US missile shield in Europe, which the US side says is not threat to Russia but the Kremlin says erodes its military deterrent.

In tough rhetoric last week, Russia warned that the dispute was near a “dead end” and warned it might have to deploy new rockets in Europe to take out elements of the controversial shield.

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Obama signaled to Medvedev, in an infamous open-mic incident in what was supposed to be their last meeting in Seoul in March, that he could be more flexible on missile defense if he wins reelection in November.

After four years as prime minister, Putin began his third term as Russian president on Monday in an opulent Kremlin ceremony overshadowed by more arrests of activists protesting his 12-year domination of the country.

US State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner said Tuesday that the United States was “disturbed” by Russia’s security crackdown on peaceful protesters and urged the authorities to allow freedom of speech and assembly.


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A whopping 14 percent of new US COVID-19 cases are coming from Texas

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With the daily number of new coronavirus infections in Texas now exceeding that of most other states, experts say Texas has become a hot spot of the global pandemic and that more aggressive measures are needed to slow the virus’ spread.

Texas’ new confirmed cases of the coronavirus now make up around 14% of the U.S. total — measured by a seven-day average — a significantly higher proportion than its 9% share of the nation’s population. Since July 1, the U.S. has reported 358,027 new infections. Of those, 50,599 were in Texas.

On Tuesday, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported more than 10,000 new cases — representing nearly 20% of the nation’s new cases for the day. It could be a “catch-up” from the July 4 holiday, DSHS spokesman Chris Van Deusen said, noting that numbers reported Sunday and Monday were lower.

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Devastating new ad uses Ronald Reagan’s words against Trump to stunning effect

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The Lincoln Project is not the only right-wing group that has been creating attack ads slamming President Donald Trump. Another is Republican Voters Against Trump, which uses the words of President Ronald Reagan in its latest video to illustrate Trump’s failures as president.

In the ad — which lasts one minute and 40 seconds — RVAT contrast Reagan’s words with images of the U.S. during the Trump era. The message is not subtle: Under Trump, the United States is a long way from Reagan’s vision for the country.

The ad isn’t aimed at liberals and progressives, many of whom would argue that Reagan’s economic policies were bad for the American working class during the 1980s. It asks Republicans: “Has your party left you?”

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The sheep-like loyalty of Trump supporters is starting to backfire

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Donald Trump thinks his voters are morons. This universal truth was once again demonstrated this week by a Facebook ad working Trump’s new statue-oriented campaign strategy. The ad declared, “WE WILL PROTECT THIS” and featured a photo of … no, not some racist-loser Confederate general astride a horse but “Cristo Redentor,” the famous statue of Jesus Christ that sits atop Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, which, for those keeping track, is not in the United States but in Brazil, a sovereign nation in a different continent.

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