Council Questions Putin's Win

No matter what Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks, say the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, his party didn't win fair and square.

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BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

(Soundbite of music)

KORVA COLEMAN, host:

And good morning, everybody.

The Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe say no matter what Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks, his political party didn't win elections yesterday fair and square. The OSCE and the European leaders say the Russian parliamentary elections failed to meet many commitments and standards for democratic elections. The head of Russia's central - rather, election commission says that's baloney, and there was no fraud. Putin's United Russia Party grabbed a little more than 64 percent of the vote in an election that saw heavy turnout. That's because election observers say a lot of Russians were pressured to vote, and vote for Putin's party.

Delegates to the United Nations Climate Change conference in Bali, Indonesia are shouting for new action for an international environmental agreement. Representatives from some 190 countries are there. Many are trying to lure the United States into agreeing to a new climate change pact to succeed the Kyoto Protocol that governs the same topic. The United States has opposed Kyoto before, saying it would be an economic hardship. But the foreign minister of Indonesia, host country of the conference, says everybody has to get over that fear.

Foreign Minister HASSAN WIRAYUDA (Indonesian Foreign Minister): Although the cost will be significant, it should be bearable in relation to estimated GDP and global investments, and certainly insignificant compared to the damage the yet uncontrolled climate change will wreak.

COLEMAN: Just talking about it may not be enough. Just ahead, Luke will talk to a Columbia University scientist about creating mechanical trees that suck toxic carbon emissions out of the air.

A British teacher arrested in Sudan for naming a teddy bear Mohammad has been pardoned by the Sudanese president. Gillian Gibbons got 15 days in prison for insulting Islam by naming the toy after the revered prophet. Crowds had called for her death. Two British lawmakers flew to Sudan and successfully pleaded her case. Gibbons is expected to leave Sudan later today.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has decided to talk about his faith. The life-long Mormon has faced distrust from some evangelical Christians who claim Mormonism is a cult. This is not the first time a presidential candidate has tackled voters' fear of faith. Democrat John F. Kennedy allayed fears about his Catholicism in 1960.

(Soundbite of archived political speech)

President JOHN F. KENNEDY: But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured.

COLEMAN: Romney can also be feeling the heat from Baptist minister Mike Huckabee. The former Arkansas Republican Governor is ahead in some polls in Iowa, where the caucuses are just weeks away.

And being a Republican is apparently good for those winter blues. The Gallup organization has released a new poll saying 58 percent of GOP members describe themselves as having excellent mental health. The figures aren't so good for people with other political persuasions. Forty-three percent of self-identified independents cited good moods. Only 38 percent of Democrats say their mental health is good.

Remember, the news is always online at npr.org.

BILL WOLFF (Announcer): This is NPR.

COLEMAN: Alison and Luke, back to you.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Thank you, Korva.

LUKE BURBANK, host:

Thank you, Korva. Keep it locked down in D.C. for us, will you?

COLEMAN: I know what you're saying. I will.

STEWART: Yeah, keep that (unintelligible).

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