Russia Shakeup, Mississippi Prisons

Grind for January 18th
“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Planning Ahead

The Headline

Entire Russian government resigns as Putin introduces policy changes

The Grind

Russia’s entire government is resigning to help facilitate a series of constitutional changes introduced by President Vladimir Putin, announced Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Wednesday.

The President “outlined a number of fundamental changes to the constitution, significant changes not only to a number of articles of the constitution, but also to the balance of power as a whole,” said Medvedev, who appears to be the only official who knew about the mass resignation ahead of time.

The Details

Putin spoke to lawmakers about his proposals just hours before Medvedev’s announcement:

“I propose….entrusting the State Duma (lower house of parliament) with the power to approve the candidacy of the prime minister, and then, per the prime minister’s proposal, [appoint] all deputy prime ministers and federal ministers,” he said. “In this case, the president will be obliged to appoint them…he will not have the right to reject parliament-approved candidacies.”

In other words, key powers will be transferred from the presidency to the parliament and prime minister – perhaps setting up a scenario where Putin can run the country as prime minister when his presidential term ends in 2024.

Putin also wants to establish a two-term limit for future presidents, limit the supremacy of international law, and boost the power of the State Council (an advisory group he leads).

The new rules will be put to a nationwide vote some critics expect will be a sham.

Opposition leader Alexei Navalny accused Putin of trying to remain “the sole leader for life, taking ownership of an entire country and appropriating wealth to himself and his friends” and said the upcoming vote would be “fraudulent crap.”

Supporters credit Putin with making the government more effective and democratic ahead of his exit in 2024.

“I think all of this is a response to opinion polls reflecting popular dissatisfaction with government and their lots in life, and ebbing support even for Putin,” said market strategist Timothy Ash. “In terms of timing, Putin has waited until what he sees as the external risks from sanctions moderating. He will sell this new, fresh government as part of a fresh start/reach out to the West.”

Putin has already nominated Mikhail Mishustin, head of Russia’s taxation service, to replace Medvedev as prime minister. Medvedev is expected to serve as deputy head of the National Security Council (another group chaired by Putin).

Taking Action

The Headline

Billionaire rapper Jay-Z sues Mississippi prison on behalf of 29 inmates

The Grind

Musical artist Jay-Z has directed his lawyer to take legal action against the Mississippi Corrections Department (MDOC) after five inmates were killed during altercations inside the state’s prisons.

The lawsuit describes facilities where “violence reigns” and inmates are forced to “live in squalor – endangering their physical and mental health” and claims at least 29 inmates are in danger of dying as a result of “understaffing and neglect.”

Mississippi’s three prisons currently need at least 1,000 more officers.

The Details

Jay-Z’s lawsuit specifically sites Parchman Farm, a maximum security prison that is vulnerable to flooding, affected by black mold, and infested with rodents. Several areas lack electricity, running water, and dependable plumbing.

Three inmates were killed at Parchman during the past month and two escaped.

Last week, after a health inspector deemed Unit 29 unsafe, MDOC asked the state for more than $419 million to fill vacant positions, conduct necessary repairs, and increase the salaries of current employees.

Some Unit 29 inmates are being temporarily housed in an area that was shut down 10 years ago after MDOC was sued over inhuman conditions and inadequate healthcare. According to MDOC, the action was necessary in order to separate rival gang members.

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