BY VICTORIA MESCALL AND SABRINA GARONE
Russian Presidential Election
Russian President Vladimir Putin won his fourth presidential term with nearly 77 percent of the vote — his highest score ever and a massive mandate to pursue his nationalist, assertive policies for another six years in power.
Observers reported widespread ballot stuffing and unprecedented pressure on Russians to vote, but that is unlikely to seriously damage Putin given his popularity and his tight control over Russian politics.
Putin’s communist challenger, Pavel Grudinin, came in a distant second with 11.9 percent of the vote. Third was ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky with 5.7 percent. And the only candidate to openly criticize Putin during the campaign, liberal TV star Ksenia Sobchak, won just 1.7 percent.
Putin’s most serious rival, opposition leader Alexei Navalny, was barred from the race because of a fraud conviction.
The election came amid escalating Cold War-like tensions, with accusations that Moscow was behind the nerve-agent poisoning this month of a former Russian double agent in Britain and that its internet trolls had waged an extensive campaign to undermine the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
FBI Director Fired
On March 16., former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He was expected to retire in two days, and would have been qualified for a lifetime pension.
A report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz revealed that McCabe had been lying to investigators reviewing the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
“Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy,” President Trump tweeted. “Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!”
Sessions also said that McCabe had lied under oath numerous times, and had revealed unauthorized information to the news media regarding an investigation into the Clinton Foundation.
“This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally,” McCabe said in a statement.
“It is part of this Administration’s ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel’s work.”
US student found dead in Bermuda
A Pennsylvania college student who disappeared following a rugby tournament in Bermuda was found dead Monday after an intensive search of the British island territory.
Searchers found the body of Mark Dombroski, 19, at the base of a colonial-era fort in a park not far from where he was last seen walking by himself, officials with the Bermuda Police Service said at a news conference.
A cause of death was not released but forensic experts were still processing the scene where his body was found and an autopsy was planned, said Acting Commissioner James Howard.
Dombroski was a member of the rugby team at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and had come to Bermuda to compete in a tournament. He disappeared early Sunday, with video footage showing him walking alone and looking at his phone as he left a bar where his friends had gathered.
He was found at the base of Fort Prospect in a wooded area known as the arboretum and near an athletic center where the team had played during the tournament.
Stephen Hawking Passes
Stephen Hawking, the most renowned theoretical physicist of his era, died Wednesday at his home in Cambridge, England. He was 76 years old.
Hawking’s brilliant mind traveled through time and space despite his body being paralyzed by illness. He wrote so lucidly about the mysteries of space, time and black holes that his book, “Brief History of Time”, became an international sales success, turning hime into one of the greatest celebrities in the scientific world since Albert Einstein.
“He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live for many years,” his children Lucy, Robert and Timothy said in a statement. “His courage and persistence along with his brilliance and humor inspired people from all over the world. He once said ‘The universe would not be great if it were not the home of the people you love’. We will always miss him. “
Although Hawking began to suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when he was 21 years old, the physicist surprised doctors by living more than 50 years with a disease that is usually lethal. A severe episode of pneumonia in 1985 caused him to breathe through a tube, forcing him to communicate by means of an electronic voice synthesizer that gave him his distinctive tone.
The AP Exchange contributed to this article.