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The difference between Putin and Medvedev

Ever wonder why Vladimir Putin is so much more popular in Russia than his presidential successor, Dmitry Medvedev?

Their reactions to yesterday's subway bombings in Moscow shows why.

Putin said he'd like to "drag out of the sewer" the organizers of the attacks. And Medevev? He'd like the Supreme Court and the High Court of Arbitration to come up with some ways to improve counterterrorism laws.

"I think we should give attention to some issues relating to improvement of the legislation aimed at preventing terrorism, including clear work of various agencies in charge of investigating such crimes," he reportedly said.

Later on, Medvedev seemed to understand Russians' need to hear some tougher language, and promised to crush the attackers. "These are animals. Irrespective of their motives, what they do is a crime by any law and any moral standards," he said. "I have no doubt that we will find and destroy them all." But there's no question which of the two leaders has his finger on the pulse.

MAXIM SHIPENKOV/AFP/Getty Images

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Paging Clark Hoyt

The International Herald Tribune, the global edition of the New York Times, last week issued the following bizarre apology to top leaders of the government of Singapore:

In 1994, Philip Bowring, a contributor to the International Herald Tribune’s op-ed page, agreed as part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this inference was not intended. We apologize to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the undertaking and the article.

What the apology doesn't say, but an article published last week by the New York Times does, is that the  company that publishes both papers paid $114,000 to the Singapore leaders to settle a libel suit out of court and had the article in question removed from the Web, according to the leaders' attorney. Hmmm.

Of course, it's impossible to unpublish things online these days, and the paper's strange apology has only attracted more attention to the fact that the current prime minister of Singapore happens to be the son of its former prime minister. Reporters Without Borders used the episode to fire off a harsh letter to Prime Minister Lee highlighting all the various ways his government inhibits press freedoms, and the apology even raised Henry Blodget's ethical hackles.

The offending paragraph, which ran under the headline "Are political dynasties good or bad?," appears to be this one:

The list of Asian countries with governments headed by the offspring or
spouses of former leaders is striking: Pakistan has Prime Minister Asif Ali
Zardari, widower of Benazir Bhutto, herself the daughter of the executed
former leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bangladesh has Sheikh Hasina, daughter of
the murdered first prime minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In Malaysia,
Prime Minister Najib Razak is the son of the second prime minister, Abdul
Razak. Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong is Lee Kuan Yew's son. In North Korea,
Kim Il-sung's son Kim Jong-il commands party, army and country and waiting
in the wings is his son Kim Jong-un. 

Nasty company, but libel? Give me a break. "Singapore's Lee Hsien Loong is Lee Kuan Yew's son" is a factual statement.

So the question is: Why did the Times Company apologize? Why not just tell Singapore to stuff it? How many newspapers and ads does the IHT sell there anyway?

HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images