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Guardian: Russia will stand up to Putin, says jailed former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky

The Arab spring has inspired Russians to stand up to Vladimir Putin, and sweeping political change is possible if voters reject him at the ballot box in next weekend's presidential elections, according to Putin's jailed opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

Writing for the Guardian from his prison cell in the far north of Russia, Khodorkovsky says the leadership around Putin is already quietly caving in to demands for a more open, democratic politics in the wake of the mass protest movement that welled up after questionable elections in early December. He adds that the burgeoning middle class – which will constitute a majority within 10 years – will no longer accept Putin's "managed democracy" as suitable for governing their country.

Khodorkovsky's intervention comes as thousands of protesters turned out in Moscow on Sunday wearing white scarves and ribbons and carrying white balloons and flowers, the colour and symbols of the protest movement calling for Putin's removal from power.

Guardian: BP's US trial over Deepwater Horizon oil spill is postponed for a week

The multibillion-dollar trial of BP over its part in the worst oil spill ever in the US, which had been due to begin on Monday, has been postponed.

BP is accused of ultimate responsibility for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon rig disaster, when an explosion in a well led to the deaths of 11 workers and hundreds of millions of gallons of oil leaking across the Gulf of Mexico.

The case, which could last two years, will begin on March 5, BP said on Sunday night.

BP and the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee confirmed that the US District Court in New Orleans had adjourned the start of the trial by a week to allow them to continue discussing a possible settlement agreement.

MSNBC: Arizona Gov. Brewer endorses Romney for president
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) endorsed Mitt Romney for president during her appearance Sunday morning on “Meet the Press.”

Brewer said she viewed Romney as the most electable candidate to challenge President Obama this fall, and that she made her conclusion after meeting with the candidates and after a debate this week in Arizona.

“I have decided that I am going to publicly endorse Mitt Romney. I think he's the man that can carry the day,” Brewer said. “I think Mitt is by far the person who can go in and win.”

Brewer has become a national figurehead for efforts to curb illegal immigration after leading an effort to install one of the nation’s toughest immigration laws.

Washington Post: Santorum says he ‘almost threw up’ after reading JFK speech on separation of church and state
Former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) on Sunday defended a statement he made last October in which he said that he “almost threw up” when he read John F. Kennedy’s 1960 Houston address on the role of religion in public life.

The statement by Santorum marks the GOP contender’s latest defense of his long-held views on the separation of church and state, although in his Sunday appearance he doubled down on the colorful language he employed in his October speech at a New Hampshire college.

In remarks last year at the College of Saint Mary Magdalen in Warner, N.H., Santorum had told the crowd of J.F.K.’s famous 1960 address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, “Earlier in my political career, I had the opportunity to read the speech, and I almost threw up. You should read the speech.”

McClatchy: U.S. military receives remains of last soldier missing in Iraq
The U.S. military has recovered the remains of the last U.S. service member missing in Iraq, ending a nearly six-year ordeal involving shadowy militants and a tragic love story, his family said Sunday.

At about 1 a.m. Sunday, a U.S. officer knocked on the door of the family home in Ann Arbor, Mich., with news that Army Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie was confirmed dead, though he had no details yet on how or when he died, said Entifadh Qanbar, Altaie's uncle and a close aide to Iraqi politician Ahmad Chalabi. Altaie was the last soldier unaccounted for in Iraq.

Altaei's brother, Hathal Altaei, speaking by phone from his parents' home, said the military had confirmed his brother's identity through a DNA test.

"The officer came eight hours ago and told us," Hathal Altaie said. "We've been waiting for five years, suffering, not knowing if he's alive or dead. This was not the news we wanted, of course, but it's better than staying like that, without ever knowing what happened to him."

Guardian: Colombian rebel group says it will free all captives
Colombia's main rebel group has said it will free the last of the government captives it has held for years and abandon the practice of kidnapping.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) said on its website on Sunday that it would release 10 "prisoners of war", who were the last in its control, although it did not say it was abandoning hostilities. The government says the rebel group holds at least 12 captives and all must be freed before talks to end the long civil conflict can start.

CBC: Clinton calls Syrian constitution vote 'cynical ploy'
Syrians headed to polling stations Sunday amid reports of a continued military assault to cast ballots in what opposition rebels have dismissed as a sham referendum on a new constitution.

Two umbrella organizations opposing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian National Council and the National Co-ordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria, vowed to boycott the 12-hour vote on a recently drafted constitution that could keep Assad in power for another 16 years. Polling stations opened by 7 a.m. local time at more than 14,000 locations.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, speaking at an international conference in Tunisia on the Syrian crisis, called the referendum a "cynical ploy."

"It's a phoney referendum and it is going to be used by Assad to justify what he's doing to Syrian citiziens," she told CBS News on Sunday.

Telegraph: Osborne: UK has run out of money
In a stark warning ahead of next month’s Budget, the Chancellor said there was little the Coalition could do to stimulate the economy.

Mr Osborne made it clear that due to the parlous state of the public finances the best hope for economic growth was to encourage businesses to flourish and hire more workers.

“The British Government has run out of money because all the money was spent in the good years,” the Chancellor said. “The money and the investment and the jobs need to come from the private sector.”

Mr Osborne’s bleak assessment echoes that of Liam Byrne, the former chief secretary to the Treasury, who bluntly joked that Labour had left Britain broke when he exited the Government in 2010.

CBC: 3 Via employees die in Ontario derailment
Via Rail has confirmed that three of its employees, all in the locomotive section, died in a train derailment in the southern Ontario city of Burlington on Sunday afternoon.

"There's no question it's very tragic. We're a relatively small company, we're a family, we know everyone by name," said Via chief operating officer John Marginson, speaking to reporters at the scene.

"We certainly feel for the families of the colleagues that we lost," said Marginson, who added that there was no fuel leak at the site. The derailment involved five cars as well as the locomotive.

"It's very premature to speculate … but obviously something went very wrong," he said.

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