Too cold to protest: doctor
Russians should avoid attending the protest against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow at the weekend to protect their health amid a spell of cold weather, the country’s chief sanitary doctor, Gennady Onishchenko, said yesterday. Tens of thousands of people are expected to rally for a march in the Russian capital tomorrow in the third mass protest challenging Putin ahead of next month’s presidential election. “The forecast for Saturday is extremely unfavorable with temperatures of minus-18°C forecast. This is a very low temperature for Moscow,” he told the Interfax news agency. “If this forecast is true then I categorically advise people not to take part in these protests.” Onishchenko added that people should “find other ways of participating in the formation of a happier country.”
Vandals attack statues
Vandals have attacked and stolen several statues from the gardens of the Villa Medici in Rome, including two works dating back to ancient Rome, Eric de Chassey, director of the French-owned palace, said on Wednesday. “I am absolutely shocked by this act of vandalism,” he said, adding that the vandals had come twice last week and again overnight on Monday when they were disturbed by a guard. De Chassey said most of the statues attacked were Renaissance or 20th-century copies of older works, but two of them were authentically ancient, dating back about 2,000 years. French and Italian police have been called in to investigate the thefts and the 16th-century villa’s management has beefed up security.
Cold stops peeing statue
The Manneken-Pis, a bronze statue of a young boy urinating that is a symbol of Brussels and a major tourist attraction, has had to stop peeing because of sub-zero temperatures, the tourist office said on Wednesday. Officials turned off the flow of water through the statue, which has stood on a Brussels corner since the 1600s, out of concern the cold might damage its internal mechanism. Temperatures in the Belgian capital were set to fall to minus-10°C on Wednesday night, far below the average minimum for February. “It all depends on the weather, if the temperatures go up again it will work again,” a tourist office spokeswoman said. The statue, which is on the site of a 15th-century drinking fountain, has more than 800 specially made outfits that city officials use to dress it up during the year.
Kabila party loses seats
The ruling party has lost more than 40 percent of its legislative seats to rivals, but will remain the largest bloc in parliament, according to full results from a Nov. 28 vote released yesterday. The outcome could weaken President Joseph Kabila’s rule after his own re-election was decried by the opposition as fraudulent in polls that were also criticized by international observers. “The results of these elections took a long time, but it was to ensure their overall transparency,” election commission chief Daniel Ngoy Mulunda said. Kabila’s PPRD party won 63 seats in the 500-seat National Assembly, down from 111 in the 2006 polls, Mulunda said. The opposition UDPS party came second with 41 seats, while the Kabila-allied PPPD followed with 27 seats. About 17 seats in the assembly remain unfilled as the Supreme Court considers requests to have the results of those races thrown out over allegations of fraud or errors. Mulunda said the court had two months to rule on those cases.