'Scary' Lucille Ball statue replaced in her New York hometown

NEW YORK Lucille Ball fans can rest easy.A new statue honoring the "I Love Lucy" star was set to be unveiled on Saturday in Celoron, New York, on what would have been Ball's 105th birthday, after residents of her hometown made it clear they did not "love" an unflattering previous version.The life-size bronze artwork was created by the well-known sculptor Carolyn Palmer, whose proposal was selected from more than 60 submitted by artists around the world.The statue at Lucille Ball Memorial Park will replace another that was installed seven years ago. Critics panned the sculpture, saying it looked nothing like the iconic redhead, and it eventually became known as "Scary Lucy." Palmer spent nine months working on the project, including watching countless episodes of "I Love Lucy" and hiring models to pose in 1950s-style dresses."I not only wanted to portray the playful, animated and spontaneous Lucy, but also the glamorous Hollywood icon," Palmer said in a statement. Palmer has sculpted a number of other famous figures. Her marble statue of Pope Francis stands at the papal residence in New York City, where the pope blessed it during his visit last year.A bronze version of that statue is being produced for St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. "I Love Lucy" aired in the 1950s and is considered one of the greatest television comedies ever. Ball played the wife of bandleader Ricky Ricardo, who was portrayed by her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. (Editing by Frank McGurty)

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Rio's Olympic air: Dirty, deadly and no cleaner legacy from Games

RIO DE JANEIRO Rio de Janeiro's air is dirtier and deadlier than portrayed by authorities and the Olympics' promised legacy of cleaner winds has not remotely been met, an analysis of government data and Reuters' own testing found.Brazil declared in its official bid for the Olympic Games, which open on Friday, that Rio's air quality was "within the limits recommended by the World Health Organization." That was not true when Rio won the right to host the Games in 2009 and it is not true now.Rio for years has surpassed WHO limits for the most dangerous air pollutant - called particulate matter (PM) - spewed from millions of vehicles clogging the city's roads.Thousands die annually in Rio's metropolitan area of 12 million people because of complications related to the air. People exposed to the pollution have higher risks of lung cancer, heart attacks, strokes, asthma and other diseases."This is definitely not 'Olympic air'," said Paulo Saldiva, a University of Sao Paulo pathologist and member of the WHO committee that set tougher global pollution standards in 2006."A lot of attention has been paid to Rio's water pollution, but far more people die because of air pollution than the water," he said. "You are not obligated to drink water from Guanabara Bay but you must breathe Rio's air."Rio's contaminated Olympic waterways have drawn attention as the city suffers endemic levels of gastrointestinal diseases from a lack of sewage collection. Reuters recently reported that Rio's Olympic water venues and favorite beaches also tested positive for drug-resistant "super bacteria." But there has been no talk of Rio's air pollution, three-quarters of which is caused by exhaust fumes from the 2.7 million vehicles on its roads, according to Rio state's environmental protection agency, Inea. Its data shows that since 2008, Rio's air has consistently been two to three times above WHO's annual limit for PM 10 - so called because the particulate matter has a diameter of 10 microns or less, seven times smaller than that of a human hair.That means Rio has the dirtiest air of any Olympic host city since scientists began consistently tracking PM 10 in the late 1980s, with the exception of Beijing in 2008. Tania Braga, head of sustainability and legacy for the Rio Olympics organizing committee, said air quality cannot be judged on PM data alone and other pollutants are at low levels.Saldiva dismissed that, saying "the health damages associated with PM pollution are the most severe of all pollutants" and, because of that, Rio's air is of poor quality. The WHO says on its website that "PM affects more people than any other pollutant," that outdoor pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths worldwide in 2012 and that those deaths were due to exposure to PM 10. The U.N. body did not respond to requests for comment on Rio's air quality. Using the WHO's methodology on estimating mortality, Saldiva calculates some 5,400 people died in Rio because of air pollution in 2014, the most recent year that data is available.By comparison, Rio's infamous murder levels resulted in 3,117 deaths last year.From 2010 to 2014, metropolitan Rio had an annual average PM 10 reading of 52 per cubic meter of air, according to Inea statistics. The WHO's limit for the annual average is 20.Jamie Mullins, a professor of resource economics at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, estimates that for every 10 units above the WHO limit on PM 10 levels, track athletes across all events see their performances diminished by 0.2 percent.Mullins based that calculation on an examination of nearly 656,000 results from U.S. track athletes over eight years, and the air pollution during each.'SAD REALITY'During the Beijing Olympics, the PM 10 level was 82 – well above Rio's. When London held its Games in 2012, the PM 10 level was 23, government data showed. The PM level was 44 during the 2004 Olympics in Athens, 24 in Sydney in 2000 and 28 in Atlanta in 1996, said Staci Simonich, a professor at Oregon State University who published a 2009 study on pollution at the Beijing Games."Rio's numbers are all too common for the developing world. That is the sad reality," said Simonich. Air quality varies depending on weather - rains temporarily clean PM from the air. But Rio is in its dry season and pollution is at its peak. Inea denied Reuters' requests to see monthly data on PM levels for 2015 and this year.Some experts even question the reliability of Inea's data - noting that three-quarters of its 64 automatic monitoring stations are run by private companies that pollute, as a condition for them winning environmental licenses."The local agency should be fully and independently managing the stations," said James Lents, an air pollution expert who designed southern California's anti-smog effort.Inea did not respond to requests for comment on the private stations. Saldiva and his top researcher Mariana Veras teamed with Reuters to analyze Inea's data and carry out independent testing on PM 2.5 - fine particles that pose the most serious health risks. Inea's data shows that since 2011, Rio's PM 2.5 levels surpassed WHO's annual limits 83 percent of the time. Reuters conducted 22 separate hour-long tests for PM 2.5 levels: in front of the Olympic Park and the Olympic Village, next to the beach volleyball arena on Copacabana beach and just outside the Olympic stadium where track athletes will compete. There are no standards for one-hour tests for PM 2.5 – instead the WHO sets a 24-hour average level of 25 and an annual average of 10. But Saldiva and other experts said the results show athletes, fans and Rio residents are exposed to high levels of PM 2.5.The highest readings were at the Olympic stadium – with a peak of 65 PM 2.5 during a June 30 test taken mid-morning, the same time of day athletes will compete.The Copacabana site had a 57 reading the same day, while the Olympic Village where athletes will sleep hit a maximum of 32. Rio's mayor, Eduardo Paes, has been praised by experts for creating Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes and extending a subway line, but Rio's fleet of vehicles still grows by 100,000 a year.The mayor's office told Reuters improvements in public transport would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It said the BRTs had already resulted in 750 smaller-capacity buses being removed from roads. But Saldiva said mass transport must be vastly expanded to significantly impact pollution levels, given the number of cars and trucks on Rio's roads. "The idea of an Olympic legacy in terms of diminishing air pollution is Utopian. It is unimaginable that a few BRT routes will substantially change the quality of the air," he said. "For the Brazilians remaining in Rio after the Olympics have come and gone, there is no clean air legacy."Follow Brad Brooks on Twitter @bradleybrooks (Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Kieran Murray)

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Kremlin hails IOC Olympic green light, but conditions grate

MOSCOW The Kremlin on Monday hailed a decision by the International Olympic Committee not to ban Russia's entire team from the Rio Olympics over doping allegations, but government officials said the strings attached to the IOC's ruling were unfair. The IOC threw Russian sportsmen and women a lifeline on Sunday ignoring a call from the World Anti-Doping Agency to impose a blanket ban, ruling instead that decisions on whether individual competitors could compete at Rio would be left to the international sports federations.That prompted a sigh of relief in Moscow where President Vladimir Putin had spoken of a possible schism in the Olympic movement and complained of what he said was growing Cold War-style political interference in sport.The scandal, which centers on allegations that the Russian government and FSB security service have systematically covered up doping in sport, has hurt Putin's attempts to tie Russia's sporting prowess to what he says is his country's resurgence on the world stage, but his own ratings look safe. Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said on Monday that Putin would not be attending the opening ceremony of the Rio games, but that the Kremlin was pleased with the IOC ruling.His comments echoed those of other senior officials who said they believed that common sense had prevailed over what they said looked like a witch hunt. "Certainly, we welcome the main decision which allows so-called clean athletes to take part in the Olympic Games, given the permission of international (sports) federations," Peskov told reporters on a conference call.The IOC ruling came with a twist however that angered some Russian government officials, stipulating that any Russian athletes sanctioned for doping in the past would not be eligible to go to Rio. Alexander Zhukov, the head of Russia's Olympic Committee, said that smacked of double standards as sportspeople from other countries with a history of doping would be allowed to compete. "Why are only Russian sportsmen being punished in this way?" Zhukov said in televised comments. "This flouts the principle of equality (of treatment)."Zhukov said 13 members of Russia's Olympic team had a doping history, according to the R-Sport news agency. Russia's track and field athletes, already barred from the games over the doping scandal, are not affected by the IOC ruling and, with the possible exception of one athlete based in the United States, will not be competing. Others, with no doping history, who have been cleared by global sporting federations, will be competing.Russia's three-member archery team was cleared on Monday to take part by the World Archery Federation, while all seven Russian tennis players were cleared by the International Tennis Federation on Sunday.There was bad news for Russia's swimmers though, with FINA, the World Swimming Federation, saying on Monday it had decided that seven Russian swimmers were ineligible. (Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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Iraq's marshes, once drained by Saddam, named world heritage site

BAGHDAD A wetland in southeast Iraq, thought to be the biblical Garden of Eden and almost completely drained during Saddam Hussein's rule, has become a UNESCO world heritage site, Iraqi authorities said on Sunday.Fed by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the marshlands of Mesopotamia are spawning grounds for Gulf fisheries and home to bird species such as the sacred ibis. They also provide a resting spot for thousands of wildfowl migrating between Siberia and Africa.Saddam Hussein, who accused the region's Marsh Arab inhabitants of treachery during the 1980-1988 war with Iran, dammed and drained the marshes in the 1990s to flush out rebels hiding in the reeds.After his overthrow by the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, locals wrecked many of the dams to let water rush back in, and foreign environmental agencies helped breathe life back into the marshes.The marshes, which covered 9,000 square kilometers (3,500 square miles) in the 1970s, had shrunk to just 760 sq km by 2002 before regaining some 40 percent of the original area by 2005. Iraq has said it aims to recover a total of 6,000 sq km. Vast, remote and bordering Iran, the marshes have been used in recent years for drugs and arms smuggling, receiving stolen goods and keeping hostages for ransom.The Marsh Arabs have lived in the wetlands for millennia, but are on the fringes of Iraqi society. A study put their population at 400,000 in the 1950s but several hundred thousand fled Saddam's repression or become economic migrants. Estimates of the numbers returning vary wildly. Many Marsh Arabs are illiterate and have struggled to find work outside the marshes.Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday praised UNESCO's decision, which he said "coincides with the consecutive military victories in the war against" Islamic State. The militant group, which has been pushed back from about half the territory it seized in 2014, controls some of the world's richest archaeological sites in northern Iraq but has not come close to the country's south. (Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Helen Popper)

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German prosecutors say won't be lenient with VW

HAMBURG German prosecutors will grant Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) no mitigation for a record vehicle emissions settlement it faces in the United States and want VW to pay them a separate fine, a spokesman said.Prosecutors in Braunschweig, near Volkswagen's (VW) Wolfsburg headquarters, are demanding VW be fined based on the level of the profits it made from selling about 11 million cars equipped with illicit engine software.VW last month agreed with the U.S. government and regulators to pay $15.3 billion to get about half a million emissions-cheating diesel cars off U.S. roads. But the scale of U.S. penalties is no reason to exercise leniency on VW's regulatory offence, a spokesman for the Braunschweig prosecutor's office said on Monday."We cannot pay heed to what VW may have to pay in other countries when we go about setting the fine," he said. "We cannot say: 'VW is already requested to pay a lot in the U.S., so let's not be so strict.' That's not possible." Under Germany's law on regulatory offences, prosecutors are assessing the "economic advantage" VW enjoyed from using cheating software, rather than expensive exhaust filter systems, to manipulate pollution tests, the spokesman said, adding it will be difficult to determine the level of profits VW has reaped from its wrongdoing.Industry observers in Germany estimate this could result in a fine of several hundreds of millions of euros. Braunschweig prosecutors, which last month started probing former VW Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn and VW brand chief Herbert Diess over suspicion of market manipulation, declined comment. Europe's largest automaker confirmed on Monday it has been notified by prosecutors about the latest probe but declined further comment.The proposed U.S. settlement would move VW close to the 16.2 billion euros ($18 billion) it has set aside to cover the costs of the scandal. VW still faces criminal probes in the United States, Germany and South Korea as well as lawsuits from investors around the world suing the carmaker for what they describe as losses incurred after the manipulations were disclosed in September.($1 = 0.9053 euros) (Reporting by Jan Schwartz and Andreas Cremer; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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