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India's Andhra Pradesh state votes aginst partition
by Staff Writers
Hyderabad, India (UPI) Jan 31, 2013

Pussy Riot hopes Dutch royals see beyond Sochi opening ceremony
Amsterdam (AFP) Jan 31, 2014 - Two freed members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot said Friday they hoped a high-level Dutch delegation to the Sochi Olympics would see beyond the glittering opening ceremony and speak out on human rights.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte have agreed to travel to the Games in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, despite calls to boycott the event over Moscow's human rights record and with many world leaders declining to attend.

The delegation must form an opinion "not just of the opening ceremony, because the opening ceremony will be all smiles and good news, but about things they see outside the opening ceremony," Nadezhda Tolokonnikova told a press conference in Amsterdam.

"We do hope that members of the delegation to Sochi will make their opinion public," she said, speaking through a translator.

Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, freed last month from a Russian jail, were speaking in the Dutch capital at the invitation of Human Rights Watch.

The Netherlands and Russia had a turbulent 2013 which was supposed to be a year of celebrating centuries of good relations but which turned into a diplomatic nightmare.

Low points included a Dutch police assault on an allegedly drunken Russian diplomat and Russia arresting 30 Greenpeace activists on a Dutch-flagged vessel protesting Arctic oil drilling.

Gay rights activists in April staged a massive protest in Amsterdam against President Vladimir Putin's visit to protest against controversial Russian anti-gay legislation.

The two Russian activist-musicians are to share a stage with US pop icon Madonna in New York on Wednesday at a star-studded concert as part of their campaign against abuses in Russia.

Three members of the band were jailed for 21 months for hooliganism after performing a controversial protest stunt inside Moscow's foremost church, the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February 2012.

One of the three, Yekaterina Samusevich, 31, was released in October 2012 after being given a suspended sentence.

Tolokonnikova, 24, and Alyokhina, 25, were released last month, two months early, under a Kremlin-backed amnesty ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics.

The Games open on February 7.

Politicians in Andhra Pradesh state rejected a bill promoted by the ruling Congress Party to split the state to create a homeland for Telangana-speaking people as India's 29th state.

Andhra Pradesh's 294-seat assembly, dominated by the Seemandhra Party, turfed the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Bill Thursday.

The Times of India reported "pandemonium" broke out in the hall just before the vote, with members leaving their seats to converge in the center well of the Assembly. Pushing and shoving continued until after the vote was taken by a show of hands.

The Deccan Chronicle newspaper, based in Andhra Pradesh, reported the day was "one of the most fractious" in the House. Seemandhra legislators pressed all House members to support state Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy's call to vote against splitting the state.

A report by the Hindu newspaper said the bill had received 9,072 amendments during the six weeks of debate prior to the vote. All amendments will be sent back to the federal Parliament in New Delhi for reconsideration early next month.

Defeat of the bill is seen as an embarrassment for the federal Congress Party and its Andhra Pradesh state branch, the BBC reported, and a victory for the Seemandhra party, which has its base in the state's Seemandhra area of Rayalaseema in southern Andhra Pradesh and regions north along the coast.

The landlocked state of Telangana would have had a population of more than 35 million within its 44,300 square miles, a 2011 census indicated.

Boundaries among city states, states and regions have changed many times since the subcontinent gained independence from Britain in 1947.

Andhra Pradesh was created in 1956 during a major reorganization of states based along linguistic lines. The old Hyderabad state was divided into Andhra Pradesh, Bombay state -- since divided further -- and Maharashtra, now called Karnataka.

Seemandhra members especially were concerned Andhra Pradesh's capital and India's sixth-biggest city, Hyderabad -- a magnet for IT research and pharmaceutical investment dollars -- would have been a joint capital for a decade before being ceded to Telangana.

Proponents of a Telangana state said money and jobs brought in by big business would have boosted the economy of an area they claim has been neglected by Andhra Pradesh officials.

Proposals for splitting the state also have split the population in the past two years.

Many parts of southern Andhra Pradesh were in darkness for two weeks in October before electricity workers called off their strike against splitting the state.

The 30,000 workers and 15,000 contract workers went back to work in the face of an impending cyclone that had been scheduled to land along the coast.

Apart from who gets the economic engine of Hyderabad, water and educational institutions would be contentious issues should Andhra Pradesh be split, the news website Live Mint reported in October.

Major rivers pass through what would be Telangana, making water and power sharing an administrative and political nightmare.

Most of the Andhra Pradesh's important schools and universities are in the Hyderabad region, meaning the state's rump Seemandhra regions would be left without access to world-class teaching, Live Mint reported.


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Madonna to share stage with freed Pussy Riot members
Moscow (AFP) Jan 30, 2014
Madonna will share a stage with the freed members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot at a concert in New York next month, the US pop star said. The singer will appear with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina as part of an Amnesty International concert on February 5 with a star-studded lineup including Bob Geldof, Blondie and Yoko Ono. "I am honoured to introduce my fellow freedom f ... read more

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