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January 26, 2016

Last week, British government investigators accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of "probably" ordering the murder of critic and one-time KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006. The U.S. isn't going that far, but a high-ranking U.S. Treasury official is calling Putin corrupt, on the record with BBC Panorama, for its show on "Putin's Secret Riches"

"We've seen him enriching his friends, his close allies, and marginalizing those who he doesn't view as friends using state assets," said Adam Szubin, the acting U.S. Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in charge of U.S. sanctions. "Whether that's Russia's energy wealth, whether it's other state contracts, he directs those to whom he believes will serve him and excludes those who don't. To me, that is a picture of corruption." Putin "supposedly draws a state salary of something like $110,000 a year," Szubin added. "That is not an accurate statement of the man's wealth, and he has long time training and practices in terms of how to mask his actual wealth."

So just how wealthy is Putin? That's one of the closest guarded secrets in Russia. Szubin declined to comment on an apparently secret 2007 CIA report that estimated Putin's worth at $40 billion, but in the video below, Russian journalist Stanislav Belkovsky gave Panorama that same number, $40 billion in assets, a number he says he drew from his "confidential sources." "I'm still sure Putin is the richest man in Europe, one of the richest men in the world," Belkovsky said.

In 2008, Putin colorfully dismissed the claim that he was Europe's wealthiest man, saying "it's simply rubbish. They just picked all of it out of someone's nose and smeared it across their little papers." Regarding the new allegations, Putin's spokesman told the BBC that "none of these questions or issues needs to be answered, as they are pure fiction." The BBC also noted that "President Putin declined to be interviewed for Panorama." Peter Weber

4:00 p.m. ET

Former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke has recorded a robocall touting his candidacy for Senate in Louisiana, and in the recorded message he explicitly ties his campaign to Donald Trump's. Duke has been piggybacking on Trump's increasingly prominent campaign for months; this winter, Trump was forced to disavow Duke's endorsement several times after initially offering a muddled response.

In the call, Duke issues a joint plea to voters on behalf of both men. "It's time to stand up and vote for Donald Trump for president and vote for me, David Duke, for the U.S. Senate," he says:

In announcing his candidacy for Louisiana's Senate seat last month, Duke again drew comparisons to Trump's movement, saying he was "overjoyed to see Donald Trump, and most Americans, embrace most of the issues that I've championed for years." The Trump campaign has already distanced itself from the robocall, telling Politico: "Mr. Trump has continued to denounce David Duke and any group or individual associated with a message of hate. There is no place for this in the Republican Party or our country. We have no knowledge of these calls or any related activities, but strongly condemn and disavow." Kimberly Alters

3:29 p.m. ET
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Gene Wilder passed away at the age of 83, his family said Monday. Wilder was best known for playing Willy Wonka in the titular 1971 film, as well as for having roles in the Mel Brooks comedies The Producers and Young Frankenstein.

Wilder was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in 1989, but had been in remission since 2000. Wilder's nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman told Variety the actor died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at his home in Stamford, Connecticut. Jeva Lange

3:12 p.m. ET
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Children in Greensville, South Carolina, are claiming that a clown is trying to lure them into the forest, CBS News reports. "There has been several conversations and a lot of complaints to the office regarding a clown or person dressed in clown clothing … trying to lure children into the woods," the property manager of Fleetwood Manor wrote to residents in a letter, which requested that if the clown was spotted, residents immediately call the police.

Greensville County deputies said that a woman and her son reported seeing "a clown in the woods" around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 21. Another witness said she saw a clown near the garbage dumpster, and that the clown waved at her, she waved back, but the clown did not walk toward her. Some children additionally reported that "several clowns" had tried to pursue them into the woods with money, CBS News reports, although the Greensville County Sheriff's Office said it only has one filed incident report about the clown sightings.

"Witnesses told investigators that they believed the clowns lived in a nearby home, but a deputy wrote in the Aug. 21 police report that he followed a trail through the woods to the home and found no evidence related to the clown sightings," CBS News writes. Jeva Lange

2:26 p.m. ET

Nobody exactly enjoys jury duty, but fulfilling one's civic duty is certainly a little better when you're doing it with Taylor Swift:

The formerly Nashville-based singer reported to the local courthouse Monday morning after conspicuously missing Sunday night's VMAs — although her early morning roll call in Tennessee likely played a major part in her absence.

The photos aren't even illegal since they were taken while the jurors were waiting in the jury assembly room. Selfie away, everyone! Jeva Lange

1:47 p.m. ET
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The numbers of tourists heading to Spain, Portugal, and other sunny European nations have increased up to 30 per­cent this year compared with 2015, CNN reports. Experts say travelers are eager to avoid destinations seen as potential terrorist targets. France, the world's top destination for international travelers, has seen visitor spending falling for the last year, perhaps due to the rash of terrorist attacks it experienced in recent months. Egypt has experienced a nearly 50 per­cent drop in visitors this year. The Week Staff

12:28 p.m. ET
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Donald Trump on Monday commended Huma Abedin for choosing to leave her husband, former New York congressman Anthony Weiner. And given Abedin is a top aide to Hillary Clinton, Trump also used the opportunity to slam a longtime enemy.

"Huma is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him," Trump said in his statement. He then added: "I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It's just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this."

Trump has in the past called Weiner a "pervert sleaze," a "perv," and the "greatest sleazebag of our time" on Twitter and in speeches. Weiner "will send anything that he has out over Twitter, or any other form of getting it out," Trump has warned in the past.

Weiner responded to the insults before, calling Trump "F---face Von Clownstick" on his now-deleted Twitter. Jeva Lange

12:08 p.m. ET
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The 2016 U.S. Open begins Monday with Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic as top seeds going into the tournament.

With 12 Grand Slam titles already under his belt, Djokovic has had a bit of a rough summer, losing in the third round of Wimbledon and the first round in the Rio Olympics. He'll be challenged by Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, and Juan Martin del Porto in Queens.

The women's competition will also be tight, with the unseeded Monica Puig — who won gold at the Rio Olympics — poised to make a run. Venus Williams, a two-time champion and the No. 6 seed, could also break into the finals. Still, FiveThirtyEight gives Serena Williams with a 55 percent chance of winning the tournament, which would be her 23rd Grand Slam victory and make her the winningest Grand Slam player in Open-era history. (The record is currently held by Steffi Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles.)

For more U.S. Open predictions, read The New York Times' dark-horse picks or brush up on the major storylines of the tournament at Sports Illustrated. Jeva Lange

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