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In 1701 an unusual cargo arrived from the Netherlands in the Spanish port of Cadiz. Documents indicated it was chocolate for the head of the Society of Jesus, a powerful and secretive organization in Catholic Spain. The cargo was so heavy that a customs officer decided to inspect it. Inside, he found closely packed bars [...]

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Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov recently summoned Russia’s chief insurance regulator, Konstanin Pylov, and told him to mind his mouth. The subject of the prime minister’s concern was the World Trade Organization’s demand that Russia dismantle its restrictions on foreign insurance companies in the Russian market. The regulator, who is officially head of the Department of [...]

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MOSCOW – Beer advertising is pervasive on Russian television, but not because it’s hot weather and Russians are thirsty. President Vladimir Putin has criticized the advertising, chiding media officials, including the press minister, for promoting profits ahead of health and physical fitness. The point he didn’t make is that, in Russia, the alternative to beer [...]

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MOSCOW – Among courtiers, courage of conviction is rarely a qualification for the job. It can, however, help in dealing with insults, the occupational hazard that comes with paying court to most sovereigns. By this standard, Dmitri Kozak, deputy head of President Vladimir Putin’s administration, is no Vauban Le Prestre, Marshal of France at the [...]

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It’s no tragedy, and it cannot be. That’s what Russian government officials said in mid-1999 when, over the strenuous objections of a majority of its steelmakers, Russia agreed to a U.S. ultimatum and signed an agreement to limit Russian steel exports to the United States. That year started with an attempt by U.S. trade negotiators [...]

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In Russia, the village folk say that even a blind horse can pull a cart, if he is led. In the case of Russia’s state insurer Rosgosstrakh, it is easy to see that the horse is being led in a circle; more difficult is to identify who has his hands on the bridle. After selling [...]