Opposition blogger may have “outed” Putin’s daughter

Leleplezték Putyin egyik lányát

* Putin secretive about his family, private life

* Media focus on what may be daughter’s role

MOSCOW, Jan 29 (Reuters) – One of Vladimir Putin’s main opponents may have broken a taboo by publishing what he says is the pseudonym used by one the Russian president’s daughters to stay out of the spotlight.

Putin has made his and his family’s private life little less than a state secret, keeping his rarely-photographed daughters Yekaterina, 28, and Maria, 29, out of sight and managing his divorce with the minimum fuss.

But opposition blogger Alexei Navalny on Thursday published on his Facebook page an online report which identified a certain Katerina Vladimirovna Tikhonova as the head of an organization working with Moscow State University.

putin's secret daughter
On the right, the woman who might be Putin’s secret daughter. 

A separate report on Wednesday by RBC, an independent multi-media holding, stated Tikhonova was among those heading a $1.7 billion project to build new University facilities but it did not make any connection between her and Putin.

Navalny wrote on his Facebook page: “RBC (they are cool!) yesterday found Putin’s daughter in the Scientific Council of Moscow State University.”

A source close to Moscow State University confirmed Tikhonova was Putin’s daughter, telling Reuters on condition of anonymity: “Yes, it is her.”

Tikhonova could not be reached for comment.

The Kremlin often brushes aside questions about Putin’s private life, defending his right it privacy. Asked about the woman’s identity, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “I don’t know who she is.”

Asked whether Putin’s daughter works for Moscow State University, he answered: “I don’t know. It’s not my job. I deal with the president, not with his children.”

$1.7 BILLION PROJECT

RBC, which has a television channel, a newspaper and Internet portal, wrote on Wednesday about a development project under which Moscow State University, one of the country’s most prestigious, would be expanded.

Yekaterina Tihonova
Yekaterina Tihonova the scientist during the Moscow University expansion. 

Under the headline “Who stands behind the MSU expansion”, it wrote that Tikhonova was in charge of Innopraktika, an organisation that was helping prepare the $1.7 billion project.

RBC did not make any direct link to Putin, although it said several influential businessmen who are his allies were involved in the project, and said Tikhonova had declined an interview request. Innopraktika declined to comment to Reuters.

Sergey Aleksashenko, a former official at the central bank who is now an opposition figure, questioned in a blog whether it was correct for Tikhonova to hold such a role in a business project if she is indeed Putin’s daughter.

“If this is true, it means that Vladimir Putin has crossed one of those ‘red lines’ he once drew for himself,” he wrote.

Putin is so secretive about his family that most Russians have no idea what his daughters look like. It is also not public knowledge where his ex-wife Lyudmila is living since their divorce was finalised last year.

Putin did, however, say in November that his daughters both live in Russia and he sees them once or twice a month.

Vladimir's Daughter dancing

Media reports last year said Maria had lived in the Netherlands until Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people, many of them Dutch nationals. She fled after the local mayor called for her deportation, though he later retracted his comments.

Putin’s spokesman denied rumours five years ago that Yekaterina planned to marry the son of a South Korean general.

Putin and Lyudmila announced their breakup to a television interviewer in June 2013 and they formally divorced in April last year after more than 30 years of marriage.

Putin said in 2008 there was no truth to a newspaper report that he was preparing to marry Olympic rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva, who was born in 1983.

He told journalists at the time to keep their “snotty noses” out of his private affairs and the newspaper, Moskovsky Korrespondent, folded shortly afterwards.

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James Franco on ‘I Am Michael’ and Getting Sick from the Sony Hack

James Franco Sundance

In “I Am Michael,” the controversial new drama that premieres on Thursday night at the Sundance Film Festival, James Franco plays former gay rights activist Michael Glatze, who in 2007 renounced his homosexuality and turned to Christianity. Glatze was profiled in a 2011 New York Times Magazine profile by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, which caught Gus Van Sant’s eye. He shared the material with Franco, and it took four years to secure financing to get the story on the big screen.

Franco attended a special Variety dinner at Sundance in honor of “I Am Michael,” where he talked about the project over salad and chicken. The film’s first-time director, Justin Kelly, occasionally chimed in.

After you read the article, why did you think Michael’s life would make a good movie?
It’s like a lot of projects, where in the beginning, there’s an idea that’s interesting to me, but I don’t quite know how it’ll be fleshed out. I liked the reverse take on this story. I didn’t think I would be the one to develop it. I thought there would be other voices, who knew this world better. So that led Gus and I to look for some people, and Gus suggested Justin. One of the reasons Gus liked Justin, in addition to the short film he had directed, was Justin has been in San Francisco for 10 years. He knew the scene really well.

Did you always know you’d play Michael?
I didn’t, until Justin’s script started coming in. I saw it and said, “It’s so good. If Justin wants me, I should definitely do it.”

How did you prepare?
I really depended on Justin for that. As far as Michael’s attitude, Justin was good about putting together various videos from throughout Michael’s life and transformation. I could see him. In some ways, he’s similar and in other ways, he’s very different.

How so?
It just seemed early on he was aware of himself as a young gay man. It was almost as if later, he willed himself to forget all that. His personality became a lot more rigid, based on how he behaved in the videos.

Did he become less flamboyant?
Yeah. When Justin went to meet him and asked about his sister, Michael said to Justin, “Why? Are you interested in her?” It’s almost like this willful blindness. My first guess is that if Justin is doing this movie, he’s probably gay. That Michael would be blind to that, I don’t know — it said a lot to me.

Justin: He said to me, “I know that Gus is gay. I don’t know about James, and I don’t want to make you identify as everything.” I said, “If you don’t want me to identify as anything, I’m not going to identify as anything.” He knew what I meant. I was being a bitch, because he was being a bitch.

James, did you meet Michael before shooting?
I didn’t really have much interaction with him before. I had one Skype conversation. I just felt like with this role, I had the videos of him. It’s not like I had to match his behavior perfectly, as I did with James Dean or Alan Ginsberg, because they were such public figures. What I wanted to get was an authentic connection to his experiences and emotions. I didn’t think I would get anything from talking to him, because if he was still in his Christian anti-gay mode, I don’t need to hear any more of that.

So you’ve never met him in person?
We saw him yesterday. He was a delight. I wouldn’t give full credit to the movie, but I think the movie has helped him release some of these extreme views that basically gays are sinners. And that it’s helped him heal a little bit and maybe showed him that just because he doesn’t want to identify as gay doesn’t mean he has to completely destroy or condemn everything about gay lifestyles.

Did he like the film?
Yeah, he loved it. His words for me were, “I want to thank you. You’re a good actor.”

There’s a buzzed-about threesome in the film between you, Zachary Quinto and Charlie Carver.

I knew Justin wasn’t going to take it too far. You play it too safe, and it’s just lame. So I went as far as I could before Justin said cut.

Justin: I always keep saying, there’s a great moment when James licks Charlie’s armpit.

James: I can’t even remember what happened. I think I was going for it more than they were.

During the Sony hack, did you ever regret making “The Interview?”
No.

What was it like to go through that?
It was really out of my hands. It was a situation where there was nothing for me to do to. As soon as they called the press off, and the movie was pulled from theaters, there was nothing to do. They weren’t looking to me to make any decisions. It was just sitting around and staying quiet. That said, there was this pressure. There was so much attention on it — attention on a level you never expected. It was a shock to my system, and I got sick. But I was never scared for my safety or anything.

Pornhub Erects Huge Billboard in Times Square After Long Search for a Great Non-Pornographic Ad

Update: It’s been taken down

New York’s Times Square has always been an eyegasm of advertising, so the adult website Pornhub’s enormous new billboard—featuring the winner of its contest seeking a great non-pornographic ad—fits right in.

The winner is Nuri Galver, a copywriter from Istanbul, whose entry was chosen from more than 3,000 others. On the contest’s Tumblr page, Galver says his concept was a simple one:

“Because our icon is a hand, our campaign will easily be integrated into any media. Because everyone has it or is familiar it. And they use it often in their daily life. So, with our effective insight, we will announce ‘Pornhub’ name to the whole world in a short time.”

Galver had another idea, too: “People of different nationalities, with different types of hand, will sing our ‘All You Need Is Hand’ song with the music of ‘All You Need Is Love.’ This will be our image film. Depending on budgetary situation, we can use celebrities in our movies. Sure, it increases the effect of the campaign.”

View image on Twitter

So, Pornhub did just that, hiring the Gotham Rock Choir to christen the ad with their own parody rendition of the Beatles classic. Take a look below. And for complaints, please contact de Blasio—or maybe Giuliani.

Suge Knight Just Killed a Guy on a Movie Set: Report

013015_suge_knight_turnin_launch_v2

Death Row Records founder Suge Knight ran over a man, possibly killing him, during an argument on a movie set where The Game, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were filming, TMZ reports.

Suge Knight got into a fight on the set of a film project in Compton, and ran over a man and we’re told the victim is dead.

0129_suge_knight_troubled_times_footer

We’re told a fight broke out between Suge and 2 crew members. Suge got back into his car, took the wheel and threw the vehicle in reverse … and ran over a bystander.

The website says Knight’s claiming he feared for his safety from the crew members due to his “frail health” after he was shot six times this summer. Knight’s also facing up to seven years in jail on another pending legal matter—he was arrested with Katt Williams in October for allegedly stealing a paparazzo’s camera.

012915_suge_knight_scene_launch

Update 9:30 p.m. Knight reportedly fled the scene and is currently preparing to turn himself in to LAPD officers.

Update 11:30 p.m. The LA Times has more detail on the incident:

The confrontation began around 3 p.m. when Knight and two unidentified men began arguing on the set of “Straight Outta Compton,” a biopic about the group NWA, said Capt. John Corina of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detective’s unit.

At least one of the victims was a member of the film crew, Corina said.

Suge Knight Just Killed a Guy on a Movie Set: Report

About 20 minutes after the alleged argument on set, the victims visited Tam’s Burgers near Central and East Rosecrans avenues, authorities said.

Knight is believed to have followed the men in his truck before running them over the parking lot, Corina said.

Witnesses said the truck hit the men, then backed over them before leaving the scene.

One 55-year-old man died and another 51-year-old man was injured. It’s being investigated as a homicide, the Times reports.

Update, Jan. 30, 7:50 a.m.: Knight arrived at the LAPD’s West Hollywood precinct early this morning flanked by his lawyer, the Los Angeles Times reports. He was arrested on suspicion of murder; his bail has been set at $2 million.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich actually married his lover in secret ceremony 6 Years ago, she reveals

Couple: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich married his third wife Dasha Zhukova up to seven years ago

  • Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, 48, met art collector Dasha Zhukova, 33, in 2005
  • Miss Zhukova has always been referred to as Chelsea owner’s girlfriend
  • But she has confirmed they married a ‘few years’ after meeting at party 

Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich secretly married his third wife up to seven years ago, it has been revealed.

The Russian billionaire, 48, who is estimated to be worth £6.3billion, met 33-year-old art collector Dasha Zhukova in 2005 – and she has always been referred to as his girlfriend.

But now, the Moscow-born editor-in-chief of art and fashion magazine Garage has confirmed in a magazine interview that they married ‘a few years’ after meeting, in a secret ceremony.

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and his girlfriend Dasha Zhukova in the stands during a Barclays Premier League match at Stamford Bridge in January 2013

The Wall Street Journal Magazine article by journalist Tony Perrottet made a reference to the couple who ‘met in 2005 and were married a few years later; they have two children’.

The simple mention in the middle of the article is understood to have been approved by Miss Zhukova, but she was unwilling to say anything about their marriage, reported the Daily Mirror.

Miss Zhukova – who met Mr Abramovich at a New Year’s Eve party hosted by her father – grew up in California.

Her father is a prominent businessman and oil magnate and her mother was a scientist. Her parents split when she was three and she and her mother moved to the US when she was ten.

She went to a privileged Jewish day school in California and graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara before returning to Moscow and later moving to London.

Roman Abramovich (;eft) and Dasha Zhukova attend the 2009 Venice Biennale

She and Mr Abramovich have two children – Aaron Alexander, born in December 2009 and Leah Lou, born in April 2013. Mr Abramovich has five other children from a previous relationship.

Miss Zhukova was previously with Marat Safin, the retired former Tennis World Champion Number 1, but the couple split in 2005. Mr Abramovich meanwhile has been married twice previously.

His first wife was Olga Yurevna Lysova, whom he divorced three years after marrying in 1988. His second wife was air stewardess Irina Vyacheslavovna Malandina – with whom he had five children.

She married Mr Abramovich in 1991 but they divorced 16 years later in 2007 – in a settlement said to be in the region of £150million. It is thought Irina was left with a lump sum as well as four homes.

London-based Mr Abramovich is now said to own dozens of properties including nine flats in Kensington, which he plans to turn into a 30,000 sq ft house, as well as a mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens – which he reportedly bought for £90million – and a home in Chelsea.

Previous spouse: Russian billionaire Mr Abramovich's second wife was air stewardess Irina Vyacheslavovna Malandina (left) - with whom the Chelsea FC owner had five children

He also owns two houses in the Caribbean, a ranch in Colorado, a house just outside Moscow, and the £250million New Holland island off St Petersburg. The couple met in 2005 and were married a few years later; they have two children

He also owns two planes – a Boeing 767 and 737 – three helicopters, a customised Ferrari, two Maybach limousines, a Porsche Carrera, a Rolls-Royce Corniche and a VW Golf, as well as at least three supersize yachts.

Miss Zhukova hit the headlines in January 2014 when she apologised after being accused of racism by posing in a chair that resembled a bound and semi-naked black woman.

The photograph that showed her sitting in the chair designed by Norwegian artist Bjarne Melgaard was published ‘completely out of context’, she said at the time, adding: ‘I utterly abhor racism.’

Ukrainian Brides May Solve China’s Gender Gap, Chinese Media Claims

Ukrainian Brides May Solve China’s Gender Gap, Chinese Media Claims

The 33 million extra men pose serious social risks, but some just see a matchmaking bonanza.

Their economy is depressed but beautiful women are running rampant,” the state-run Beijing News reported Jan. 22 in a story suggesting that Ukrainian women could be the solution to China’s woman shortage.

The piece, illustrated with charts, bubbles, and cartoon illustrations of lonely Chinese men, was a breezy attempt to make light of China’s missing women and the severe gender imbalance caused by couples aborting female fetuses in favor of boys.

So widespread is the practice that it has badly skewed the country’s sex ratio: The global average is around 105 boys born for every 100 girls; but in China last year, just over 115 boys wereborn for every 100 girls.

The problem has been brewing since sonogram technology was introduced to China in the 1980s, allowing families to determine a baby’s gender during the first few months of pregnancy.

Combined with the country’s restrictive family planning policies — until recently, most urban families were only allowed a single child in order to curtail population growth — and a traditional preference for sons, the newfound ability to practice sex-selective abortion has resulted in one of the world’s highest gender imbalances.

The topic flared anew in the public mind after the National Bureau of Statistics announced the latest population figures on Jan. 20, noting that at the end of 2014 China had 700 million men and 667 women, a shortfall of more than 33 million women.

The bureau didn’t provide a breakdown, but previous research shows that most of China’s missing women are among those born since 1985.

To address the problem, China has resorted to propaganda campaigns extolling the virtues of daughters and offering cash incentives for couples that have them.

These measures have spurred more female births, but not enough — China’s gender imbalance is still “the most serious in the world, and has lasted for the longest time and affected the largest number of people,” China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC) said in a Jan. 21 statement.

Rather than dwelling on the fact that sex-selective abortions continue despite a government ban,

Chinese media interpreted the sex ratio as a threat to men, not women.

Chinese media interpreted the sex ratio as a threat to men, not women. On Jan. 21, web giant Sina’s arm in Henan, China’s most populous province, wondered aloud on social media platform Weibo whether the news was “heart-stopping” and exhorted bachelors to “start making an effort!”

Meanwhile, a Beijing statistician sharing the latest figures to his Weibo account wrote, “Tomorrow I am going to get my son to hurry up and find a girlfriend at his elementary school.” The Beijing News even suggested that Ukrainian women could be a solution to China’s problem.

The story kicked off with a question: “Just how hard is it for a diaosi,” slang for young bachelors of modest means, “to find a wife?” After explaining the severe imbalance that the ratio represents, it added that Chinese brides are a popular “export” to many countries such as Japan, South Korea, and the United States, a trend it said had depleted China’s supply of eligible women still further. It offered a chart of the best destinations around the globe for Chinese men to find spouses.

Japan and South Korea were particularly promising, the paper said, claiming that 26 percent of South Korean women who took foreign spouses in 2012 chose Chinese men. The trend was bound to grow, the argument went, since popular Korean television actress Park Chae Rim married her Chinese actor beau, Gao Ziqi, in Sept. 2014.

Light-hearted joking filled the comments section, with most ignoring the underlying factors leading to bachelor over-supply. Some netizensviewed the gender imbalance as a boon for the gay community, others as a useful pressure valve for who weren’t interested in marriage anyway. There were, in other words, plenty of fish in the sea, at least outside of China.

Therese Hesketh, a professor of global health at the University College London, told Foreign Policy via email from eastern China’s Zhejiang province that many ordinary Chinese feel that “aborting a girl is simply a choice made by a couple — and they are entitled to this.”

Hesketh said that when she lectures in China, many audience members “seem to just accept selective abortions,” and she has students who admit they would abort female fetuses in favor of a boy. She added that many of students attribute this stance to parental pressure.

China is not alone in these cultural predilections. Indian social scientist Ravinder Kuar wrote in an August 2013 paper that “the common response” in both China and India “when the connection between sex selection and bride shortage is pointed out is that rather than allow daughters to be born, they would resort to importing brides.”

Kuar also wrote that bride shortages in China and India can lead to “kidnap marriages” that include “deception and enticement” and “luring women for marriage into high sex ratio areas.”

For its part, the Chinese government is still campaigning against sex selective abortions. Following the release of the latest statistics, the NHFPC revealed details of its latest initiative to curb sex-selective abortion: harsher penalties for agencies and individuals who send blood samples from expectant mothers abroad for testing to determine the gender of the woman’s fetus.

Clinics and hospitals in China can perform sonograms on expectant mothers, but are barred from revealing the gender of the baby, a restriction that has given rise to black market sonogram testing (including providers who perform the exam in the back seat of a woman’s car).

Chinese agencies that offer to come to a woman’s home will draw blood, pack it in dry ice, then mail or carry the sample across the border to Hong Kong or elsewhere for testing at hospitals.

The commission has promised severe punishments for anyone caught in the act. But that hardly seems like enough to solve the underlying problem, any more than Ukrainian brides.

Government in £9 million payout after single letter blunder causes business to collapse

Exterior of Companies House in Cardiff South Wales

A High Court judge has found Companies House liable for the demise of Taylor & Sons Ltd, after they mistakenly recorded that it had been wound up

It was a 124-year-old Welsh family business which took five generations to build up, yet a blunder over a single letter was all that was needed to cause its collapse, leaving the Government with a £9 million legal bill.

A High Court ruling has found Companies House liable for the demise of Taylor & Sons Ltd, after they erroneously recorded that the Cardiff engineering firm had been wound up.

In fact it was another, entirely unconnected, company – Taylor & Son Ltd – which had actually gone bust.

By the time Companies House, an executive agency of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, tried to correct its mistake three days later, it was already too late for the Cardiff engineering firm.

“They [Companies House] had already sold the false information to the credit reference agencies,” said Philip Davison-Sebry, 57, former managing director and co-owner of Taylor & Sons Ltd.

“We lost all our credibility as all our suppliers thought we were in liquidation. It was like a snowball effect.”

Mr Davison-Sebry, a father-of-three from St Fagans, Cardiff, said that within just three weeks, all of its 3000 suppliers had been in touch to terminate orders and credit facilities were withdrawn.

“I was on holiday in the Maldives when I got a message to urgently contact Corus, one of our major clients. They said they weren’t happy at all I was on holiday, asking how could I be on holiday at a time like this?” he said.

“They said we were in liquidation and that the credit agencies had told them. I rang the office to find out what was going on – it was like Armageddon. This was all on the day of my wife’s 50th birthday. We will never forget it”.


Tom and Phil Davison-Sebry of Styromelt Ltd (Carolyn Evans)

Despite desperate attempts to reassure customers and suppliers that there had been a mistake, the business, which was established in 1875 and had its roots in the 18th century, proved impossible to save.

It lost its best customer in Tata Steel, which had provided it with a £400,000-a-month income, and contracts to construct three Royal National Lifeboat Institution stations never materialised, costing £3m in lost business.

The one-letter mistake was recorded on the companies register on 20 February, 2009 and within two months the company, which employed 250 people, had gone into administration.

But after a four year legal battle, Mr Davison-Sebry has emerged victorious when a High Court judge ruled this week that Companies House was legally responsible for Taylor & Sons’ catastrophic loss of business and ultimate collapse.


Taylor and Sons in Cardiff went into administation ( Media Wales Ltd)

The administrative slip-up was the only one of its kind ever recorded at Companies House and Mr Justice Edis said: “That can only be because it was easy to avoid.”

Mr Davison-Sebry said he was “absolutely delighted” by the ruling, adding: “Although it was a long and painful experience and very expensive, the truth came out and the judge understood fully what they [Companies House] did.

“It was worthwhile because we never would have known the full extent of what went wrong otherwise.”

The amount of damages payable by Companies House has yet to be finally assessed but Mr Davison-Sebry’s lawyers have valued his claim at £8.8m.

A spokesman for Companies House said: “Companies House has recently received the judgement in this case and is currently considering the implications at this time. Until these considerations are complete we remain unable to comment further.”

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