Iranian interior minister's fake Oxford diploma

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can't get a break at home. His newly approved interior minister, Ali Kordan, has been in office for just over a week, and a fake diploma scandal has only gained steam, complete with demands that the minister resign.

When there was a debate in parliament earlier this month over Kordan's qualifications for the post -- he's previously served as Iran's deputy oil minister and in the Revolutionary Guards -- Ahmadinejad had to go so far as to announce that Ayatollah Khamenei personally supported him, a rare (and extreme) strategy. Key to the issue were damning accusations about Kordan's honesty, with MPs claiming that Kordan lied about receiving an Oxford University law degree. So, Kordan produced his "diploma" (at right) and, with Khamenei's critical backing, sailed to approval.

Problem is, Oxford has now said the diploma is a fantasy. Have a look at the document Kordan produced: He must have made quite the impression at the university, seeing as how they saw fit to claim that his "research in the domain of comparative law... has opened a new chapter, not only in our university, but to our knowledge in this country." (Go ahead and ignore the misspellings and punctuation errors.)

When the the obviously faked diploma hit the Web, it caused a popular firestorm in Iran, with calls for Kordan to step down immediately if he can't produce the real thing. The Iranian Web site that first revealed the bogus document has now been blocked inside the country. Some analysts even think Ahmadinejad may have set Kordan up to embarrass his likely rival in the next presidential race, Ali Larijani. Kordan is a former aide to Larijani, who is also speaker of the parliament and looking slightly worse for the wear as the controversy continues. Stay tuned.


Russia not looking good on the other world stage

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Beach volleyball isn't the only event giving Russia fits in Beijing.

More than a few Russian Olympians have faltered in competition and come up well short of national medal expectations. In fact, it wasn't until today that Russia captured its first gold medals of these games, with both Nazyr Mankiev and Islam-Beka Albiev taking top honors in Greco-Roman wrestling. Adding those two golds, Russia's medal count now totals 12, which still leaves it far behind China (27) and the United States (29) -- and pretty unlikely to reach its goal of 80 medals by the games' end.

One Russian who failed to medal was 20-year-old weightlifter Svetlana Tsarukaeva (left), who added insult to injury by banging her head on the door frame as she exited the competition. Anastasia Zueva, favored for the silver in the 100m backstroke, came in a distant fifth.

Most surprising, though, are the number of setbacks in sports that are typically Russia's strengths, including gymnastics (the men's team finished a dismal sixth) and tennis (Maria Sharapova dropped out, and third seed Svetlana Kuznetsova lost in an early round).

So what gives, Russia? It could be that the team is still shaken after five of its members -- including a discus champ and former world-record holding hammer thrower -- were suspended for reportedly trying to cheat on their drug tests. A lack of trainers could also be to blame.

Of course, some might attribute the lackluster showing to bad karma from the Georgia conflict. At least the Russian and Georgian (er, Brazilian?) beach volleyball players put the affair aside, embracing before their match.

In any case, it looks like luck is currently on Georgia's side. As of about 30 minutes ago, the country just won its first gold of the Beijing Games, thanks to Greco-Roman wrestler Manuchar Kvirkelia.