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Russian President Vladimir Putin was inaugurated in May after police beat protesters with nightsticks and arrested hundreds. His spokesman later expressed regret about the police conduct: "I would have liked them to act more harshly."
The government passed a law to punish unauthorized demonstrations with fines as high as $9,000 per person. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, told me that Putin is mounting "the biggest crackdown in Russia since the Soviet era."
In that respect, Putin is acting in the spirit of the times. Climate experts say 2012 will likely be the warmest year ever in the United States. In the global political realm, though, it's been a Big Chill.