Passport

Nazi Winnie the Pooh banned in Russia

The Moscow Times reports that Russia has issued new guidlelines to law enforcement officials about how to define extremism:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Winnie the Pooh share a dubious honor: Anyone who depicts either of them with a swastika can be punished under the law.

The Justice Ministry published the latest — and biggest — update to its list of extremist materials on its web site this week, and many of the 414 new entries are so vague or controversial that analysts say they threaten to discredit the list all together.

The list is important because police officers and other law enforcement officials use it in street checks, apartment searches and criminal cases.

Among the new entries, extremist material is identified as “a picture of Winnie the Pooh wearing a swastika,” “a self-made template for a future newspaper, comic or other print materials,” and “a flag with a cross.”

 And just when you thought that was all:

A closer look at the list brings other surprises. For example, item No. 402 is the LiveJournal blog Reinform.livejournal.com.

The blog has not been suspended by LiveJournal’s abuse team and is being updated almost daily. Its owner wrote on its front page that he had opened the blog after seeing prosecutors mistakenly name the then-nonexistent blog as extremist.

With 414 items already on the list, it goes well beyond swastikas and I'm starting to get worried. Is Passport's entirely serious interest in shirtless Putin pictures extremist or patriotic? 

MJ Kim/Getty Images

Passport

The Evin Prison weight-loss plan

Another great moment in compassion from Ahmadinejad's cronies:


A close aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suggested that Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a reformist critic of the president, appeared so gaunt during his televised confession this month because he himself had decided to take off some weight.

"It's natural that when someone has become fat, in prison he understands that his fatness harmed his body and spirit," said Ali Akbar Javanfekr (left)."So maybe Mr. Abtahi took advantage of this opportunity to lose weight."

Not that I claim to really understand the forces at play in Iranian politics, but the "let-them-eat-cake" arrogance displayed by Ahmadinejad and his supporters (comparing opposition supporters to soccer fans, for instance) is confusing. Having dragged the Islamic Republic into the worst crisis of legitimacy in its history, does Ahmadinejad really have reason to feel cocky?

Given the apparent degree of frustration with Ahmadinejad among members of the clerical elite, do the Ahmadinejad loyalists really gain by mocking a prominent cleric, even a reformist one, like this?

AFP/Getty Images