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New Putin ad aims at 'virgin' voters

In addition to suspiciously timed announcements of assassination plots, the Kremlin is also continuing with its tried-and-true strategy of equating voting for Putin to getting it on. In this new ad, a young woman is informed by a fortuneteller that her "first time" will be with the prime minister/soon-to-be-president himself. Her first time voting, you creeps:

This whole sexy United Russia thing seems to have gotten a bit out of hand. For a fairly dark and disturbing response to the trend, see this new parody video from socialite-turned-political commentator Ksenia Sobchak.

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Iran spins Oscar win

Iranian state TV is doing its thing, following A Separation's Oscar victory last night. The AP reports:

Iran's state TV described the country's foreign film Oscar win on Monday as a victory over Israel, in a gesture of official approval toward an Iranian movie industry criticized by hardliners.

The official reaction to the victory of "A Separation" in Sunday's awards ceremony was cast in nationalist terms and in the light of Iran's confrontation with its arch-foe, which also had a film, "Footnote," competing for the foreign language Oscar.

The broadcast said the award won by "A Separation" succeeded in "leaving behind" a film from the "Zionist regime." It emphasized that the film won several Iranian awards in 2011, too.

Yeah, because we all know that Hollywood is controlled by … wait, now I'm confused.

On a related note, I was wondering how director Asghar Farhadi's speech last night would go over back home. While not explicitly political, Farhadi did refer to Iran as a "rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics," which could be read as a subtle suggestion that his country's cultural life has been smothered by its government. As Global Voices' Fred Petrossian reports, the official Fars News simply changed the text of the speech.

The line:

"I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment"

… was changed to:

"Iranian people respect all cultures despite the western hostility with Iranian nuclear program."

I haven't had the chance to see A Separation yet, but from all I've read, Farhadi's Oscar sounds well-deserved. Iran has a rich film tradition, but the government seems to be doing its best to destroy it, judging from last month's decision to shutter the independent Iranian House of Cinema -- the country's directors' guild -- and the arrest of six documentary filmmakers working on a film about Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in September. The country's two best-known directors are currently living abroad and in jail, respectively

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images