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New audio reveals Juncker and Mogherini talked policy in Russian prank call

(Stephanie Burnett broke this news story, and it was featured in news outlets, including Politico.)

A Russian duo described as pranksters have duped European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini into believing they were speaking to the Armenian prime minister, Euronews has learned, prompting concerns about security breaches.

The two separate calls, which lasted about 10 minutes and 12 minutes respectively, occurred in May shortly after Nikol Pashinyan was sworn in as Armenia’s new prime minister.

On the other end of the line, however, were Alexey Stolyarov and Vladimir Kuznetsov.

What did Juncker and Mogherini say?

Conversation with Juncker
The call with Juncker appears to have been taken on May 9, as he refers to US President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear the day before — a move the EU leader called a “mistake” on the phone.

“This is a major concern for us and for me personally because I do think that this is a major mistake, the one that Trump had made yesterday night,” said Juncker.

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Are ‘booth babes’ no more in the age of #MeToo?

Cars and women. From Singapore to Detroit, the two are intertwined — sometimes literally — at auto shows around the world. But in the age of the #MeToo movement that began nearly six months ago, the brakes have been pulled on using so-called “booth babes” at the Geneva International Motor Show.

Or have they?

Many automakers, including Lexus, SsangYong and Nissan, responded to the pressure in the lead up to the show by changing the models’ attire or ousting models altogether.

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Online Concierge Service Helps Men Find Gifts for Their Partners

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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition in Sept. 2014.

Dating is a serious business in Hong Kong. In an era of online dating and mobile matchmaking apps, every day thousands of single men and women in the city are busy searching for prospective partners through dating services. But what about those who have found true love and want to keep hold of it?

Enter the Butlur – an online gift-giving concierge service that describes itself as “helping discerning men delight women who have everything”.

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Have You Ever Wondered Why East Asians Spontaneously Make V-Signs in Photos?

Originally published on TIME.com

Spend a few minutes browsing social media, or watch groups of travelers posing in front of a popular tourist attraction, and you’re bound to come across it: attractive young Asians flashing smiles and making the V-for-Victory sign (or peace sign). The raised index and middle fingers, with palm facing outward, are as much a part of Asian portraiture as saying cheese is to English speakers. But why?

To non-Asians, the gesture seems so intrinsically woven into the popular culture of Beijing, Osaka or Taipei as to make it seem that it was forever thus — but, in fact, its earliest origins date back no further than the late 1960s, and the gesture didn’t really find widespread acceptance until the late 1980s.

Some say it began with Janet Lynn. The American figure skater was favored to take home gold in the 1972 Olympics in Japan. But the 18-year-old’s dream came crashing down when she fell during her performance. The gold medal was gone. She knew it, and Japan knew it.

But instead of grimacing, the shaggy-haired blonde simply smiled. Lynn’s behavior ran charmingly counter to the Japanese norm of saving face, and in doing so earned her legions of Japanese fans.

“They could not understand how I could smile knowing that I could not win anything,” said Lynn, who eventually went home with a bronze, in a telephone interview. “I couldn’t go anywhere the next day without mobs of people. It was like I was a rock star, people giving me things, trying to shake my hands.” Continue reading

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In China, suspected school food poisoning case swept under the rug

A  version of this story was published by Journalists for Transparency for a special series titled ‘SPOILED: Corruption from Farm to Table’.

LANZHOU, China—There were so many students in the hospital that morning that Li had trouble finding her own daughter.

“They put four to five children to a single bed. They just didn’t have enough beds to fit all of them,” says Li, who requested only her surname be used.

Her second-grade daughter was one of 244 primary school students in the central Chinese province of Gansu that fell ill in April 2013 after eating a government-subsidized school breakfast. The students, from five different schools in Gansu’s poor, remote Anding District, were stricken with severe diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains.

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Did you use protection, Mom?

The sex talk.Unexpectedly, I found myself illustrating precautionary measures before she walked out the door.

“Let me know when you’re home and be safe.”

“I will, don’t worry! I love you,” she assured me – a genuine attempt to appease my anxiety.

Like most parents, I swallowed mixed emotions that brew when a daughter goes on a first date: proud of how beautiful and independent she’s become, but restlessly suspicious of the man she’s with.

But I wasn’t a parent. She was my divorcee mother, and I, her overprotective daughter.

Signing as witness at my mother's wedding ceremony in 2013.

Signing as witness at my mother’s wedding ceremony in 2013.

In the last decade, the traditional parent-child relationship with my mother has been upturned, embellished with anecdotes that rival cumbersome remakes of Freaky Friday.

It’s not because I’m habitually controlling. It’s because of the real dangers facing dating divorcees: sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have more than doubled amongst middle-aged and senior adults from 2002 to 2012, according to the medical journal BMJ.

Thankfully, mother waited years until after her divorce to start dating. She was a selfless, devout Catholic committed to her children, providing any additional comfort when she could to me and my brother. So when non-biblical male names suddenly dropped in conversation while I was in college – my deeply furrowed eyebrows fashioned stern gazes of concern and distrust.

It was time to have ‘the talk.’

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What we can learn from Venezuela and Kenya

It didn’t come as a surprise.

This year’s elections around the world were often marred by allegations of election fraud, including vote buying, intimidation and physical violence. But what is new is the shift in how such claims are being reported in the digital age – and taken seriously.

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