Clinton vs Trump: who has got what it takes to become President?

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend a ‘Tina Brown on media, politics and women in the world’ 5 x 15 event hosted by the formidably funny Kathy Lette. The timing couldn’t have been better, as it was just after the first presidential debate between Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump, so suffice to say that it was one of the leading topics of the conversation. While I am not going to fully recap the evening for you, Tina and Kathy made me reflect not only on the subject of the upcoming US Presidential elections, but on Hilary Clinton in particular. I hope after you read my thoughts on the subject below, you will feel inclined to share yours. After all, only through dialogue, not monologue, we all learn….

Clinton, Trump pick up big wins

Kathy started the conversation going by saying that Trump is the greatest laxative known to mankind, but Tina’s assessment was more reflectively reserved. She was concerned that even though Mrs Clinton crushed the debate, it might not make a difference to the mass electorate perception of Clinton, as whatever Trump does and or says, nothing seems to stick to him, as if he has a Teflon coating (I read it today in one of the editorials that he actually lied sixty times during that debate )….It’s hard to disagree with Tina’s assessment of Trump, as there are plenty of cases when one wrong phrase broke careers and reputations of much bigger people than him, yet Trump seems to get away with it. Is that the aftermath of the Brexit, is the electorate so enraged by the state of things, so disenchanted with politicians that they don’t want to think of the consequences of the decision they will take? As Kathy aptly put it ‘Brexit was an intelligence test that Britain failed, is US going to follow suit?’. We all remember Sarah Palin’s endless gaffs but does Trump’s success so far mean that US electorate is becoming, forgive me, dumber?

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One of the major problems for Mrs Clinton is that she is disliked by the public and that sentiment isn’t subsiding, but growing. She isn’t good at coming across as authentic, Hilary admits to it herself,  but when she is under pressure, the time when she comes into her own and truly shines, people still choose to judge her negatively – it’s almost like a no-win situation.

When it comes to the rhetoric, telling lies no longer matters or has negative impact on the candidate ( remember Nigel Farage and Borish Johnston’s pre-Brexit promises and how they all disappeared in the puff of smoke as soon as the referendum results were in. Were they brought to task? Far from it, Mr. Johnston seems to be successfully advancing his career in PM May’s cabinet ). We now have to admit to the fundamental breakdown of the trust between people and politicians.

Kathy did wonder why people don’t warm up to Hilary, questioning whether is the consequence of rampant sexism, encouraged by Trump or the fact that she used to be a lawyer?Tina’s reply to that was that Hilary isn’t the first person to be disliked, giving the example of Al Gore and his presidential campaign, but I do wonder if that is the question of liking vs respect. I was tempted to ask Tina that if we put Trump on the sidelines for a second and put forward another opponent but for Hilary, say Nancy Pelosi or Madeleine Albright, how would she fare then? Albright is a tough and experienced politician, who never runs away from her femininity, quite the opposite, and that doesn’t get in the way of her being widely respected, even by her opponents. So you can be a woman and have respect of colleagues simply based on your work, without compromising on your female attributes. Do people respect Hilary Clinton? I somewhat struggle to answer that question, even after talking to my US friends. For many it is not the question of her experience ( she has it in spades and Tina was spot on noting that Mrs Clinton is probably one of the best prepared people for the job of the US President ) or the fact that she is a woman. It’s not even the fact that she stood by her man after his plentiful indiscretions – a marriage is between two people and no-one has the right to judge how those two people dance or other they separate or choose to stay together. It’s the fact that with her eye firmly on the ball, Hilary Clinton is playing on the court with men, having forgotten her strong ace – the fact that she is a woman, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend. We women are complex creatures, we multi-task and play multiple roles in the course of one day – a wife or girlfriend, a mother, a friend, a colleague, a teacher, a nurse, a customer, a boss, a psychologist, a chef etc – that’s our strength, the one with which a man would struggle to compete.

Yes, Tina is right in her sentiment that when you think progress is coming, we seem to go backward – with sexism, with misogyny that Trump not only unleashed on a major scale, but seems to be regularly validating. And yes, there is fear of the consequences of Trump supporters going on the attack, if he loses. After all, many of his supporters are people who are brash and potentially violent.

Often media doesn’t help either, because so many opinions are published and presented as fac that when one person states the fact, another objects because he read a conspiracy theory about it somewhere else. Media is not kind to women either, but often it is our own fault, as women tear at each other much more viciously than men.

What I personally struggle to understand is this: Hilary Clinton has been part of the political establishment for years, she knows not only the rules of the game but its ‘inner’ kitchen, so she should know how to ‘read’ her audience, yet it is Trump who seems to have his hand on the nations pulse and responds by saying what many, rightly or wrongly, want to hear. THAT can cost her the election. And the fact that in this bloodbath of a battle, she isn’t playing on her strength as a woman in the right way, so that women who hate Trump join her camp not because they are forced by the lack of the alternative, but because what she says resonates with them. Mrs. Clinton doesn’t have to invite journalists into her kitchen and let them see her cook pancakes, but she also can’t give her own daughter a bigger spotlight at rallies and on the board of her foundation, and then ring-fence her from journalists or veto questions. Can the mask come off and can we see the real Hilary, who like all of us, is human, has bad and good days, and isn’t a robot. Take her illness on the 9/11 event. If she didn’t show up, because she was ill, she would have been damned but coming, feeling unwell and then not addressing what people saw in that video backfired spectacularly. Hilary Clinton does work tirelessly on the Presidential trail, she must be beyond exhausted, putting the stain of young women to shame, if compared to hers, but taking a day off is not a weakness – it is actually a strength, to raise a hand and say I am human and today I need to rest because I am ill. There  is no shame in that, it’s a shame she handles this the way she does and so does her immediate circle. Does noone on her team see this or do they fail to communicate it to her in a way that she takes it on board and acts on it? We all, irrespective of our sex or age, need to move with the time and we do need to change sometimes, otherwise we might as well retire from modern life.

I am not an American, I won’t vote in the US elections, but after listening to Tina talk honestly, passionately and eloquently on the subject, it is hard not to voice my opinion. I think the problem lies with Hilary and it has nothing to do with her professional abilities. She is more than ready for that job, but what people need to see is her real face and that takes guts. Is it a calculated risk and can it backfire? Absolutely, but like with many things in life, sometimes one just needs to take a leap of faith and trust her gut.  The fact that people will see that glimmer of humility might just be the thing that will change the status quo. We need change, we need real people to shine and not their retouched or managed images. I sincerely hope America chooses the right candidate that will unite and not divide the already divided country further.

War Child fundraising initiative with Ellis Faas

We live in the times when receiving often overtakes one’s desire to give and that’s why focussing on charities that deserve our support is not only done by people, but brands too, as they choose to take certain initiatives under their wing and nurture and support them. I thought that I would spotlight team’s Ellis Faas initiative for the charity called War Child.

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Just like makeup, life in general should be based on freedom: freedom to be who you are, freedom to show the world who you are – without boundaries or rules and most certainly without being condemned, hated or prosecuted for being yourself. This message feels particularly poignant after the results of the EU Referendum in the UK last week.

Every day we are confronted by the volatile times we live in, filled with disrespect and downright hatred. That is why we have to make a stand. We can’t just look into the mirror and hide behind our make up. For team ELLIS FAAS, Make Up Not War is not a political, let alone a cosmetic plea. It is a call for humanity. We all have to look at ourselves to see how we can play our part in making this world a better place. And in order to break the negative chain of hate and war, the brand feels particularly inclined to take care of the children who fall victim to the conflicts in this world, and to prevent them from falling into a vicious circle.


As part of Ellis Faas plea to Make Up Not War, the brand is donating €1 to War Child for each product that it sells via ELLISFAAS.com website
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‘Dispatches from Syria’ by Janine di Giovanni

New books get published all the time but it’s not often that a book with a political and humanitarian context makes waves even before it’s release date. Janine di Giovanni is a journalist, who has been covering wars for more than two decades, but the subject of her latest book, war in Syria, makes you pause and consider the implications, even though Syria, from the geographical position on the map, is far away from England.

‘Nobody knows where this war is going. But it has to go somewhere.’ Carla


Janine travelled to Syria on many occasions, sometimes legally, with a Syrian visa stamped[...] read more

Coverage of Russian politics – is objectivity dead?

If you watch the news, you couldn’t have failed to notice the negativity that accompanies any coverage of Russian politics. Being Russian-born but living in England, I keep an eye on the coverage in both Moscow and London and have to say that objectivity seems to have been lost in a tidal wave of negativity when it comes to television coverage.

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It is the latest news coverage, following unconfirmed reports of Europe and US considering lifting the sanctions flying in the air, that has somewhat unsettled me. First came the report of the verdict on the Litvinenko case and even though every single news report was very carefully worded when it came to levelling accusations against President Putin, who ‘supposedly’ or ‘potentially’ has played a part in a devastating circumstances of the death of a man, I was rolling my eyes as I listened to ITV’s anchor Tom Bradby’s comments. Normally I enjoy his anchor style and reporting, appreciating his perspective & insider knowledge of the political process and politicians, but sadly objectivity was lacking on this occasion.

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Then on Monday BBC1’s Panorama aired its investigative documentary ‘Putin’s Secret Riches‘, narrated by reporter Richard Bilton. I haven’t heard of the people who took part in the programme as potential witnesses of events, bar one ( so I presume they aren’t widely known to the Russian population ) but using former banker and oligarch Sergei Pugachev as a supposedly credible source was surprising to say the least. Why? Let me explain. He was known for his proximity to President Putin; for living a lavish lifestyle and for fleeing to London when he got a lot of heat for his bank going bankrupt. Pugachev denies bankrupting the bank and siphoning the funds, while Russian investigators seem to have enough proof that allowed them to open an investigation. Warrant for his arrest was issued and authorities are keen to have him extradited to Russia to face the charges in court. A fraud case was opened against him in the UK, where he was residing for several years, as well, accusing him of stealing more than £655 million. United Kingdom is known for its strong law ethics and it is a country where law and order are trusted, respected, appreciated and enforced diligently. So, instead of waiting for the case to come to a close in the UK, Pugachev unlawfully escaped to France and was interviewed by Bilton, from  a secret location in Nice, in France. A side note: there is a warrant for Pugachev’s arrest not just in Russia but in the UK now as well, as he was supposed to have rendered his travel documents to court while his case was pending in the UK. Would you consider a man like that a credible witness ?

The actual documentary failed to make a convincing case for me personally. If you have enough information and credible sources, please make a tight, convincing case and present it – everyone can only benefit from the knowledge based on facts that are backed by documents – to me, this is what genuine investigative reporting is about. Instead, there were many special effects, trying to create an air of mystery and pointing a finger at President Putin – that didn’t make for compelling or memorable viewing.

Every country has its own set of rules and procedures. We have all seen movies about ‘black ops’, when certain events take place and if people in the middle of those operations get caught in the process, government always refuses to admit its part in them. We all watch Homeland, don’t we? Most of us are not privy to this kind of information and I don’t know whether it is good or bad.

What I fail to understand is what happened to journalistic integrity and why has it become a norm to report news with a big dose of a journalist’s opinion that is often strongly aligned with the news channel he or she works for? Isn’t a journalist supposed to simply report a story, so that people can watch it and think about what’s going on in the world, instead of being spoon-fed information we are supposed to interpret in a certain way? I grew up with respect for journalists, particularly the ones covering war stories. Those people were and are incredibly brave, risking their own lives to tell a story. Tellingly, what you often get when it comes to reporting political stories, is the tossing of the facts, in order to satisfy this or that political agenda. Shouldn’t news reporting allow people to make up their own mind about a particular event based on actual facts, with emotions or personal judgement taken out?

I speak both languages, Russian and English, and cherish each country, however it pains me to see my country of birth often vilified. Is President Putin an angel? Of course not. To be honest, one of the best insights I got into the political life of President Putin & his immediate circle, as well as the historical overview of Putin as President, was from a book written by a Russian journalist Mikhail Zygar, former editor-in-chief of the independent TV channel Dozhd. It was published late last year and is called


‘Putin’s U-turn’
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Thoughts on the Russia/Ukraine crisis & politicians in general

It’s always interesting to read Westerners perspective on the Russian state of affaires but I can honestly say that I am deeply disappointed that western politicians, notably President Obama, Hilary Clinton, David Cameron and Angela Merkel, to name a few, chose to  lambast President Putin in the worst possible way, while pursuing their own agendas and political goals and not those of the Ukrainian people, when the conflict within Ukraine started to escalate and Russia chose to support the results of the referendum in Crimea. Sadly for many high-profile politicians such position is short-sited and will ultimately lose, not win them elections.

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It is hard for me to understand David Cameron’s position after he halted
UK’s political delegation trip, along with Prince Edward’s, to Sochi
Paralympics. He had a son with a disability and his family went through horrific heart-break, so I thought that having that experience, that no parent deserves to go through, he would understand that people with disabilities need all the support they can get on a daily
basis. Instead, he chose to take the spotlight off them & their problems and put forward his disdain for President Putin. Did he punish Putin by this? I think it’s safe to assume that Putin didn’t care at all. 

Someone said recently on one of Russia’s TV channels that President Putin is a 
very lucky politician that can currently afford himself a human and very 
real rhetoric, unlike most of his counterparts, who might want to say what 
they truly think of the Russia-Ukraine situation, but can’t or won’t. There 
are also, sadly, plenty of journalists who forgot that their job is to report the 
facts and tell stories, as opposed to offering us their own opinions or 
opinions that suit the networks that they work for.

United States, yet again, might I add ( the most recent example before Ukraine was Syria ) – is supporting not the legally elected government ( President Yushenko discredited 
himself as a man, as well as a politician – but that’s another story-he was a 
President Elect ) but the rebels who came into power de-facto but not 
de-juro and who kick, fight, shoot and abuse their own people. Ukraine has had historically a strong nationalistic undercurrent that has reared its ugly head yet again and if Western news channels did adequate, factual reporting, people might view the situation differently.

I feel immensely grateful for honest views & reasoning on this delicate subject, especially from people and professionals who actually know what they are talking about, notably Jack Matlock Jnr, former US ambassador to Russia ( he was the man who warned Mikhail Gorbachev about the possibility of a coup and who, as a career diplomat, have worked in Russia for many years, as opposed to many politicians 
who fail to take into account the historical/geographical and human 
connections that have existed for centuries between Russia and the 
Ukraine ).

Putin’s recent televised speech was not only honest but based on legal facts. He addressed 
nations around the world and said again and again that Russians didn’t want war. Russia, after all, suffered one of the biggest human losses, amounting to millions of lives, during the Second World War and people who go through such horror will hardly be blood-thirsty or willing to go to war for no obvious reason. I personally don’t know any Russians who feel gleeful about the state of things, instead people shake their heads and wish that peace comes back to Ukraine. A couple of weeks ago CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed Swedish Minister of Interiors who said that next Putin is going to conquer Kiev – it made me wonder what world this man lives in, as I think one has to be outworldly to know what goes on in another man’s head. My sincere hope is that Russians will be united by this unexpected and tragic state of events and will come out 
wiser, with no military action. Threatening or imposing sanctions against 
Russia won’t help politicians to score their long-term goals and if 
anything, will jeopardize any recovery in the economic sector. The world is much more connected in our day and age, and when something bad happens in one country it ricochets around the world like a domino effect. Can we stop for a minute and think whether the sanctions imposed against supposed President Putin’s allies but not against him, are hypocritical in their nature?

I tend to express my views honestly and have never been a gusher when it 
comes to President Putin, however in this circumstances, thus far, I am 
proud to be Russian, even though I didn’t wave my hands or felt celebratory when Crimea was accepted into the Russian fold. TV reports talk of low-priced plane tickets, to support the tourist industry and financial support for the region, while an average Russian in the street is already bemoaning the rising bills and cost of food in the supermarkets and terrible level of bureaucracy that people continue to experience in Russia. Does an average Russian benefit from the situation? The answer is quite the opposite actually, even though Crimea was part of Russia for a very long time in the past but was given away as a playing card by Nikita Hrushev in order to gain him political votes.   

Truth be told, Russians haven’t done enough on the information front around the world – ambassadors,  economists etc remain tight-lipped or worse, absent, from TV or newspaper reporting and the only vocal and convincing diplomats on the scene are Russia’s


Minister of Foreign Affaires Sergei
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Possibility of freedom for Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Like many Russians I was glued to my television set this morning, watching the annual press conference of President Vladimir Putin with the Russian and foreign press. For over four hours questions on various subjects were pouring in, like hot lava and answers came back like ping-pong balls – measured, sometimes with a dash of humour, but it was what happened after the press conference that made me pause and wonder if my ears were deceiving me. It seems that Mikhail Khodorkovsky, one of Russia’s most famous former oligarchs, who has been incarcerated for over ten years, refusing to ask for forgiveness, has asked to be pardoned on the human grounds, as unfortunately his elderly mother is ill.

This smart and spectacled man, who has been the subject of endless discussions, books and documentaries, continues to fascinate and divide my nation and to be honest I always thought that what happened to him, whether he was guilty of some of the things that he was accused of or not, was inhuman and unjust in the way it was done. I have no insider information and have never met him in person, yet it horrifies me to imagine what he and his family must have been going through since the moment he was arrested on board of the plane. He was warned, many of his colleagues and business partners chose to leave the country but for reasons only known to him, Khodorkovsky chose to stay.

I have recently read a quote from someone famous that one should never say ‘I understand’ unless he or she has been in that situation. We also have an old saying in Russia, along the lines of ‘never say never about being imprisoned’. To go from being incredibly wealthy and famous to a prisoner, far away from family and even the simplest life’s comforts can break anyone, yet Khodorkovsky remained resolute, protesting his innocence, educating himself within the prison walls and occasionally giving interviews via letters from prison. His family, friends and lawyers continued to fight in the face of opposition, threats and absence of the transparent justice.

If today’s news are true, than a miracle of sorts will take place. Lots of people, including your truly, were sceptical that the pardon will ever happen and I sincerely hope that Khodorkovsky will be freed and reunited with his family, which includes his truly stoic wife and children who remained in Russia and in true Russian character refused to give up on the man they love. Over ten years have passed, a life-time when you are incarcerated and yet I chose to believe and hope for the goodness of the human spirit, especially on the eve of the new year.

We live in interesting times and this year has been particularly strong for Russia’s politics. Will 2014 be a year that the tide turns, that the strength of the human spirit prevails and a truly Russian quality of humility and compassion comes into play? Will there be political gains for President Putin within Russia and around the world ? Is it a calculated step on his part ? Why now? Only time will tell but if Khodorkovsky emerges into the bright daylight and leaves the world of prison life behind him for good, the world will certainly become a better and more just place.

An evening with Irina Yasina

On a Saturday evening, when the world has learnt about the passing away of Boris Berezovsky, I was walking through snowy Piccadilly towards Waterstones, for an evening with a journalist and human rights activist Irina Yasina.

В субботний вечер, когда мир облетела новость о смерти Бориса Березовского, я шла по Пикадилли в сторону книжного магазина Waterstones, принадлежащего Александру Мамуту на встречу с Ириной Ясиной, женщиной которая написала книгу под названием ‘История Болезни’ и которая поразила меня своей открытостью и щемящей пронзительностью.

В небольшом лектории я увидела худенькую женщину и когда я встретилась с ней взглядом, меня озарили ее светящиеся, умные глаза и открытая улыбка. Одетая в темные брюки, черные замшевые сапоги, красивую кофту горчичного цвета, с кокетливо повязанной на шее косынкой и с красиво уложенными волосами, единственное что выдавало ее болезнь, это легкая бледность и тот факт, что она сидела в инвалидном кресле. Смотря на нее, я видела умную, живую женщину, а не человека с ограниченными возможностями.

Зал потихонечку наполнился русской публикой, весьма разношерстной, от молодых людей и девушек, до пожилых людей и мамы с грудным малышом на руках.

Ирина Евгеньевна говорила в рамках


фестиваля
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Royal Brompton Hospital: the future in doubt or the saga continues

Last Thursday I was peacefully browsing the Evening Standard when a little article caught my attention. It talked of Royal Brompton Hospital and the fact that it seems to be losing its fight to continue saving children with heart problems and all the side-effects and issues that arise as a consequence.

There has been a long review that addresses the notion that children’s cardiac surgery is spread too thinly across the health service and that it needed to be more streamlined and targeted. In theory Brompton’s heart surgeries will now be transferred to either GOSH or Evelina Children’s Hospital starting from 2014.

Having a long established relationship with Royal Brompton and knowing the type of work that they do and the level of services and care that they provide to their patients ( from newborns to teenagers ) and their families, I cannot fathom why would a decision like that will be taken.

Prime Minister Cameron had a child who had serious health issues, so it puzzles and upsets me greatly that a father and a man who has been through immense struggle and pain, wouldn’t interfere in the issue, which ultimately will have a very negative impact on health services, medical staff moral but most of all, the children with heart & lung problems-when one is blessed with good health, it’s hard to imagine that there are lots of people who struggle for every breath or every step that they take.

Royal Brompton is a world renowned hospital that often takes extremely complicated cases that other hospitals wouldn’t ‘touch’, it does pioneering research into cardiac and respiratory diseases and issues, it has a very knowledgeable team of surgeons, intensivists, specialist nurses, yet to my mind the resolution and overall decision must be not only controversial but full of lobbyists who not only don’t play fair, but have ulterior motives for their actions. How can you possibly close one of the best cardiac and respiratory paediatric intensive care units? Shouldn’t you start cleaning up the mess from the bottom, with the under-performing hospitals or the ones who have high mortality rates and inferior care? How can you ignore the views of not only many people in the medical profession, who either worked or continue to do so at the Royal Brompton Hospital. How can there be such blatant disregards for the views of many grateful past and present patience, who depend on the doctors and nurses and other health professionals on the team at either

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UK Grazia’s article on Russian It Girl Ksenia Sobchak and my personal reply to it…..

Last week I opened my weekly addiction, Grazia magazine and saw the headline on pages 48-49 that made me pause in my tracks: ‘The socialite leading Russia’s ‘Mink Mafia’. Its content rattled me so much, that I e-mailed Grazia’s team with my comments, but so far has heard nothing from them. Let me re-cap to you the contents of my e-mail first:


‘Hello,I am a Russian who has been living in London for quite
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