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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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Apple wins dismissal of lawsuit over MacBook logic boards

Apple Inc won the dismissal on Thursday of a lawsuit accusing it of defrauding consumers by selling MacBook laptop computers that contained "logic boards" it knew were defective, and which routinely failed within two years.U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said the plaintiffs, Uriel Marcus and Benedict Verceles, failed to show that Apple made "affirmative misrepresentations," despite citing online complaints and Apple marketing statements calling the laptops "state of the art" or the "most advanced" on the market."Plaintiffs have failed to allege that Apple's logic boards were unfit for their ordinary purposes or lacked a minimal level of quality," Alsup wrote. "Both plaintiffs were able to adequately use their computers for approximately 18 months and two years, respectively."Alsup gave the plaintiffs until Jan. 22 to amend their lawsuit, which sought class-action status, against the Cupertino, California-based company. Omar Rosales, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Apple did not immediately respond to a similar request.The plaintiffs claimed that Apple's sale of MacBooks since May 20, 2010, violated consumer protection laws in California and Texas, where the lawsuit began last May before being moved.They also contended that Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook was told about the defective logic boards in 2011, but did nothing. Logic boards contain computer circuitry and are sometimes known as motherboards.A separate and still pending lawsuit in California accuses Apple of defrauding consumers by selling MacBook Pro laptops in 2011 that contained defective graphic cards, causing screen distortions and system failures. MacBooks are part of Apple's Mac line of desktop and laptop computers. The company reported unit sales in that business of 18.91 million in its latest fiscal year.The case is Marcus et al v. Apple Inc, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 14-03824. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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New York Times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham dies at 87

NEW YORK Bill Cunningham, the celebrated New York Times fashion photographer known for his shots of emerging trends on the streets of New York City, died on Saturday at age of 87 after being hospitalized for a stroke.Cunningham worked for the New York Times for nearly 40 years, operating "as a dedicated chronicler of fashion and as an unlikely cultural anthropologist," the newspaper said. His photo spreads were a staple of the paper's Style section and chronicled changing fashion through his choice of themes such as swirling skirts, Birkin bags and gaudy floral prints."A lot of people complain about fashion and fast fashion. There is no fashion. That is baloney. Look at this," he said in a video for a recent spread in the paper on the use of black and white contrasts in clothing.Cunningham took pictures of celebrated New Yorkers at swank events and traveled the city by bicycle for decades, often wearing his signature blue jacket, to shoot street fashion typically using a single-lens reflex camera."He wanted to find subjects, not be the subject. He wanted to observe, rather than be observed. Asceticism was a hallmark of his brand," the newspaper said. Cunningham, who had tried his hand at hat making, was drafted by the U.S. Army during the Korean War. After he got out in 1953, he eventually found work as a fashion reporter.In the mid-1960s he acquired a small camera to help him with his work, and that started him off in fashion photography."I had just the most marvelous time with that camera. Everybody I saw I was able to record," he wrote in the Times in 2002. In 2008, the French government awarded him the Legion d’Honneur for his work. A year later, he was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy.Cunningham became known to a wider world through an acclaimed 2010 documentary chronicling his career, in which Vogue Magazine editor Anna Wintour quipped: "We all get dressed for Bill."In an obituary in Vogue, editor-at-large Hamish Bowles wrote "his scrupulous editorial standards of both content and comportment were old world." Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., publisher and chairman of the Times, said Cunningham's "company was sought after by the fashion world's rich and powerful, yet he remained one of the kindest, most gentle and humble people I have ever met."His life was one of austerity. He slept on a single size cot where he lived until 2010 in a studio above Carnegie Hall, chock full of file cabinets containing his negatives.When asked why he spent years ripping up checks for his work from magazines, he said, "Money's the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive," the Times reported. (Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Mary Milliken)

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