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Row over Russia Winter Olympics Mascots

Image
© Agence France-Presse
An illustration of a leopard which was announced to be one of the official mascot winners from a list of 10 short-listed entries. Allegations of plagiarism, high-level political meddling and sheer poor taste have marred Russia's choice of three furry mascots to represent the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
Allegations of plagiarism, high-level political meddling and sheer poor taste on Sunday marred Russia's choice of three furry mascots to represent the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Russians chose three mascots -- a cute-looking snow leopard, polar bear and hare -- by popular vote in a seemingly innocent television show late Saturday that aimed to choose a people's mascot.

Eyebrows were first raised when the initial favourite to win the most votes -- a portrayal of Russian Father Christmas Ded Moroz -- was rather undemocratically ditched from the competition by the organisers.

Then it just so happened that the mascot which strongman Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had declared his favourite -- the "strong, fast and beautiful" snow leopard -- polled easily the most votes.

Prominent Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin told Moscow Echo radio that it was possible some none too cuddly tricks through a rigging of the telephone system had been used to engineer the desired result.

"Just after Vladimir Putin showed his sympathy for the leopard, its votes climbed sharply," he said.

The snow leopard, who somewhat implausibly moves around on a snowboard, was nowhere to be seen in the initial ratings which were led by the unfortunate Ded Moroz.

Heart - Black

Future Uncertain For Children in Thai Baby Scam

Image
© Agence France-Presse
Boats carrying tourists sail on the famous Chao Priya in Bangkok. The fate of around nine unborn children hangs in the balance as Thai authorities weigh what to do with the offspring of Vietnamese women freed from an illegal baby breeding ring in Bangkok
The fate of around nine unborn children hangs in the balance as Thai authorities weigh what to do with the offspring of Vietnamese women freed from an illegal baby breeding ring in Bangkok.

A total of 14 women, half of them pregnant, were freed on Wednesday from an operation using them as surrogates for wealthy childless couples overseas who placed orders for newborns online.

Campaigners fear for the future of the infants who are born to desperate women -- perhaps not their biological mothers -- and into a legal grey area, with Thailand still mulling the ramifications of the case.

"There is a risk that those children might end up as stateless, that they won't get citizenship anywhere," said Benedict Phillips, Asia strategy director at Save The Children.

Public Health Minister Jurin Laksanawisit has described the gang, which operated under the name Baby 101, as "illegal and inhuman" and suggested some of the women had been raped.

A few were offered up to $5,000 per baby, but others said they had been tricked into the scam, said police, who have arrested four Taiwanese, one Chinese and three Myanmar nationals in connection with the operation.

One 35-year-old Taiwanese woman was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.

Arrow Up

UK: Motorway Speed Limit Could be Raised to 80mph

Image
© PA
Britain's maximum speed limit has been 70mph since 1965
Speed limits on the motorway could be increased to 80mph in a bid to increase productivity, Philip Hammond, the transport secretary, has suggested.

Mr Hammond said that safety might no longer be the sole consideration in judging how fast cars can go and that gains to the economy from shorter journey times should also be taken into account.

Britain's maximum speed limit has been 70mph since 1965 and is lower than most in continental Europe.

Mr Hammond, who drives a Jaguar XJ saloon said: "We need to do this on a pretty rigorous cost-benefit basis. At the moment there are a clear set of criteria for making these decisions. Perhaps we ought to ask if we are using the right set of criteria."

Handcuffs

Fox News Boss Roger Ailes To Be Indicted???

roger ailes
© Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Last week it was revealed that legendary Fox News boss Roger Ailes allegedly told underling Judith Regan to lie to federal investigators to protect Rudy Giuliani.

Regan reportedly has a tape of the telephone call in which Ailes urged her to do this.

If this story is true, and the telephone call is clear, Ailes would obviously be exposed to obstruction-of-justice charges.

And now the scuttlebutt is that Ailes will in fact be indicted.

Vader

Video of thousands clashing with police in Croatia, dozens injured

Croatian police clashed with approximately 15-thousand anti-government protesters who rallied in the capital on Saturday, and state television reported that officers used tear gas to disperse the group. At least 25 people were injured.


Stormtrooper

Libyan rebel army may march on Tripoli

libyan protester

Army leaders in eastern Libya who have turned against the Gaddafi regime are preparing to send a rebel force to Tripoli to support the beleaguered uprising in the capital, according to a top military official.

Brigadier General Ahmed Gatrani said a small force comprising army defectors and rebels had already reached the outskirts of Tripoli, where an attempt to oust Muammar Gaddafi on Friday was crushed by pro-regime paramilitaries and soldiers firing indiscriminately at protesters on the streets.

The move came as the UN Security Council voted unanimously to impose military and financial sanctions against the Libyan leader and his inner circle and to refer his regime's crackdown on protesters to a war crimes tribunal for an investigation of possible crimes against humanity.

Megaphone

Wisconsin: Police Vow No Forcible Removals as Protesters Hold Ground in Capitol

Wisconsin protest
© n/a
Updated 7:51PM ET -- Wisconsin state police say they will make no forcible removals of protesters from the state Capitol on Sunday evening.

"A decision has been made to do what they've been doing all week long and that is to do everything to keep things peaceful and keep people safe," Peg Schmidt, spokeswoman for the police command in the Capitol, told the Wisconsin State Journal Sunday evening. "There's not going to be any forcible removal."

Officials say they hope to clear the building through voluntary compliance, though the possibility of protesters leaving of their own volition seems nebulous at best. Protesters continue to sing and chant "We Shall Overcome" and engage in ad hoc drumming (choppy video of the singing taken using a mobile phone follows this article).

Around 5pm ET, Capitol Police Chief Charles Tubbs told the Wisconsin State Journal that law enforcement "would monitor the gathering for at least the next hour."

"We're still working with organizers and looking for voluntary compliance," Tubbs said. "No arrests have been made at this point. At this point, we haven't made any decision on whether to arrest people."

Che Guevara

China Uses Whistles, Water, Police on Protests

China police
© n/a
Large numbers of police - and new tactics like shrill whistles and street cleaning trucks - squelched overt protests in China for a second Sunday in a row after more calls for peaceful gatherings modeled on recent democratic movements in the Middle East.

Near Shanghai's People's Square, uniformed police blew whistles nonstop and shouted at people to keep moving, though about 200 people - a combination of onlookers and quiet sympathizers who formed a larger crowd than a week ago - braved the shrill noise. In Beijing, trucks normally used to water the streets drove repeatedly up the busy commercial shopping district spraying water and keeping crowds pressed to the edges.

Foreign journalists met with tighter police controls. In Shanghai, authorities called foreign reporters Sunday indirectly warning them to stay away from the protest sites, while police in Beijing followed some reporters and blocked those with cameras from entering the Wangfujing shopping street where protests were called. Plainclothes police struck a Bloomberg News television reporter, who was then taken away for questioning.

Cell Phone

Hacker in Tabloid Scandal Ordered to Give Evidence

Glenn Mulcaire
© The Tribune
A private detective convicted of hacking into royal officials' cell phones for a British tabloid newspaper must give evidence in related cases in the widening scandal, a judge ruled Friday.

High Court Judge Geoffrey Vos ordered Glenn Mulcaire to answer questions about whether his hacking activities were at the instruction of the Rupert-Murdoch-owned News of the World. He must name who asked for the information, who he gave it to, and also explain how he accessed the cell phones.

Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 for six months for illegally eavesdropping on the voicemails of officials working for Britain's royal family. Clive Goodman, a former News of the World royal reporter, was also jailed at the time.

Vos gave the orders Friday in a separate case, in which actor Steve Coogan and football commentator Andy Gray launched a lawsuit after being told by police that their phone voicemails may have been intercepted.

People

In Libya Capital, Long Bread Lines and Barricades

The funeral for Anwar Elgadi
© Moises Saman/New York Times
The funeral for Anwar Elgadi, 44, in Tripoli on Saturday. He was shot in the head on Friday during clashes with security forces.
A bold play by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to prove that he was firmly in control of Libya appeared to backfire Saturday, as foreign journalists he invited to the capital discovered blocks of the city in open defiance of his authority.

Witnesses described snipers and antiaircraft guns firing at unarmed civilians. Many said security forces had been removing the dead and wounded from streets and hospitals, apparently in an effort to hide the mounting toll.

But when government-picked drivers escorted journalists on tours of the city on Saturday morning, the extent of the unrest was unmistakable. Workers were still hastily painting over graffiti calling Colonel Qaddafi a "bloodsucker" and demanding his ouster.

Just off the tour route were long bread lines where residents said they were afraid to be seen talking to journalists.