The idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to revive the relative glory (and territorial conquest) of czarist Russia has its own niche in foreign policy circles. While Hillary Clinton and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble are comparing Putin to Adolf Hitler, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says Putin sees himself as "a new czar" and Finnish graduate student Anneli Portman did a textual analysis of the pronouncements of Putin and Czar Alexander I, finding striking similarities (via Bloomberg's Peter Coy). For fun, try an image search for Czar Putin.
Presumably, if Putin aspires to be a latter-day czar, he would prefer to follow in the footsteps of one of the "great" ones — Peter I (1682-1725) and Catherine II (1762-1796) — or even the formidable Ivan the Terrible (1547-1584). Robert Service, a Russian history professor at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, has someone else in mind, as he explains in The New York Times:
Putin himself is much more like another czar, Nicholas I, who stumbled into military conflict with the British and French and rejected calls for the basic reforms needed to enable Russia to compete with the world powers of the day. Nicholas had a cramped perspective and arrogant personality. Always attentive to the armed forces and the secret services, he overlooked the broader necessity to modernize Russia's economy and society. His country paid dearly for this when his army was humbled in the Crimean War of 1853-56. Russian foreign policy under Mr. Putin displays an equally gross lack of foresight. [The New York Times]
Service goes on to explain the probably unintended consequences of Putin's annexation of Crimea and feints (so far) at peeling off other parts of Ukraine. But Service fails to mention that despite Nicholas' defeat in Crimea (1825-1855) — his son, Alexander II, negotiated the peace in early 1956 — Nicholas I gobbled up Poland and won the east shore of the Black Sea, helping expand Russia toward its greatest size, 9.2 million square miles, in 1864-65. Peter Weber
Last Week Tonight occasionally does a segment called "How Is This Still a Thing?" where a narrator pokes holes in a real thing that John Oliver and his writers think should disappear, like daylight savings and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. On Sunday night, "in the interest of innovation," Oliver posted a twist on this idea, proposing "non-things that should absolutely be thing-afied," as he explained. Some proposals, like an all-dog Blue Man Group and a universal key word to get out of awkward small-talk, are kind of silly. The search engine for parents, crying house key, and biodegradable home treadmill are all great ideas. And his biggest innovation? Well, you can decide for yourself: "Why do we not yet have bread pants — which are, of course, sweat pants made of bread?" If that sounds unsanitary, well, yes, but watch below to see if Oliver can sell you on the idea anyway. Peter Weber
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden "actually performed a public service" in exposing the agency's mass, warrantless surveillance of American citizens, former Attorney General Eric Holder said in a CNN podcast reported Monday.
"We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did," Holder conceded, but maintained that Snowden made a positive move in "raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made."
That said, Holder is hardly jumping on the anti-NSA bandwagon. He argued that Snowden "harmed American interests" by revealing the government's unfettered spying habits, an action Holder suggested deserves jail time. He encouraged Snowden to return to the United States to cut a deal with the feds, something the former NSA contractor has said he is willing to do if he is guaranteed a fair trial. Still, Holder added, "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate." Bonnie Kristian
Texas authorities have found six bodies of people killed in Memorial Day weekend flooding, and an 11-year-old boy washed away in a swollen creek is missing and presumed dead in Kansas, as heavy rains caused flash flooding around the U.S. Torrential rains in central and and southeastern Texas prompted several evacuations and rescues, along with the six confirmed deaths, and near Houston, prison officials evacuated some 2,600 inmates. Separately, Tropical Depression Bonnie has reached South Carolina and is expected to continue dousing North and South Carolina with rain and strong winds, according to the National Weather Service. You can see some of Bonnie's impact on South Carolina in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber
Early Monday, Iraq's elite counterterrorism forces started moving into southern Fallujah, one of two remaining large Iraqi cities controlled by the Islamic State, according to Brig. Haider al-Obeidi. He described the ISIS resistance as "fierce," with snipers, mortars, and car bombs. Iraq announced the offensive last week, but has so far been encircling the city and capturing the surrounding areas. There are an estimated 50,000 civilians trapped in Fallujah, and the Iraqi government is telling those who can't escape to stay indoors. In Baghdad, meanwhile, ISIS claimed responsibility for several bombings on Monday that have killed at least 24 people. The car bombings in Baghdad are widely seen as an attempt to divide and distract Iraqi security forces. Peter Weber
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson won the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination Sunday. He secured the win on the second ballot of the Orlando, Florida, convention with 55.8 percent of the vote.
Johnson, also the Libertarian Party's pick in 2012, has been polling in the double digits against both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. To qualify for televised debates, he'll need to hit 15 percent. Julie Kliegman
The family of a Pakistani taxi driver, Mohammad Azam, who was killed in May by an American drone strike, has demanded a criminal inquiry into the U.S. government. Following an investigative report filed by Azam's brother, Mohammad Qasim, local police are obliged to investigate the death.
Azam "was the sole breadwinner of our large joint family, [so] this was an attack on our family that hardly earns enough for two meals a day," Qasim said, noting that before he was killed Azam supported six family members, including a disabled brother. "Who will feed them now?" he asked, demanding compensation to maintain his relatives' livelihood.
There is some precedent for his effort: The families of some past drone strike victims who have been deemed innocent after the fact have received secret condolence payments from Washington.
The drone strike's target, the leader of the Afghan Taliban, happened to be Azam's taxi fare when the bombs hit. Bonnie Kristian
Bo and Sunny Obama are apparently just as busy as the rest of the first family. First Lady Michelle Obama told The Associated Press on Sunday that she's in charge of managing their schedule of appearances each month.
But don't worry, when the Portuguese water dogs, ages 7 and 3, aren't greeting tourists, they have some time to unwind.
"They can sit on my lap, they sit on my chair, they cuddle with me," Obama said. "I like to lay on the floor with them and blow in their face. I like to make them run and chase each other. But they're so cute, I just love to just cuddle them and massage them."
The dogs also get up to their share of mischief around the house.
“You know what [Sunny] does sometimes?" Obama said. "She leaves the kitchen and she'll sneak and she'll go poop on the other end of the White House." Julie Kliegman