The Odd Side – January 4, 2015

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Russian businessmen in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015.  (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Russian businessmen in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 24, 2015. (Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Two-Year Twins: Babies Born Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 in San Diego

SAN DIEGO (AP) – Twins in San Diego are getting some attention because, though born just minutes apart, one has a birthday in 2015 and one in 2016.

Jaelyn Valenica was born Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m. Her twin brother, Luis Valencia Jr., arrived at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1.

The father, Luis Valencia, called it a blessing to have two healthy children.

Swimmers Splash Into 2016 in NYC Polar Bear Plunge

NEW YORK (AP) – Jan.1 was a time to chill out for a throng of adventuresome swimmers who started 2016 with a dip in the Atlantic Ocean off New York City.

An estimated 2,000 people participated in the annual Coney Island Polar Bear plunge on a seasonally chilly Friday. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration measurements show air temperatures in the area were in the low 40s, while the ocean was a bit warmer.

Sixty-two-year-old Peter DeAngelo was garbed as the Jolly Green Giant for his 10th Polar Bear swim. He told the Daily News of New York that it’s “something you can never explain,” but it gets adrenaline flowing.

The event raises money for Camp Sunshine, a camp for children with life-threatening illnesses.

Health Insurer Apologizes for Early Morning Robocalls

QUINCY, Mass. (AP) – A Massachusetts health insurer is apologizing after sending automated phone calls to as many as 10,000 senior citizens in the wee hours of the morning.

Tufts Health Plan accidentally sent the robocall reminding patients to get their flu shots between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the insurer tells the Patriot Ledger of Quincy that the call was supposed to go out between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and attributed the mistake to “human error.”

She says the calls went out to people over 65 enrolled in the Tufts Medicare Preferred HMO option.

Several clients called the health care provider to ask about the early call.

One man said he was having coffee at 4:45 a.m. when the phone rang, and he thought it was an emergency.

Thieves Return French Police Armbands, Keep Luxury Loot

PARIS (AP) – A French prosecutor says choosy thieves returned a delivery of police armbands they say they inadvertently stole while targeting luxury goods.

Vienne prosecutor Matthiew Bourrette told the Dauphine Libere newspaper that five masked thieves robbed a delivery center in Saint-Quentin-Fallavie on Dec. 22, making off with a shipment of Louis Vuitton products — as well as six packages destined for the national police.

The paper reported for Tuesday’s editions that the packages containing police armbands were left outside the police station overnight on Dec. 24.

The thieves — and the merchandise — remain missing, the newspaper reported.

Russian Officials Get Quirky Gift: A Book of Putin’s One-Liners

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Some of Vladimir Putin’s one liners have been turned into a book by his supporters who have sent a batch to the Kremlin touting it as the ideal gift for patriotic Russian officials.

“We had begun to notice that everything which Putin says comes to pass to one degree or another,” Anton Volodin, author of the 400-page book, which was published by a pro-Kremlin group called Network, said in a statement.

“In this book we traced his words and confirmed that idea.”

Blunt language is part of Putin’s stock in trade and helps him send signals to the state security elite which he, as a former intelligence agent, springs from. Other quotes that are included center on Putin’s patriotism.

“For me, Russia is my whole life,” reads one, while others disparage Western-style democracy.

Nikolai Svanidze, a historian, said the new book reminded him of the Little Red Book and its quotes from Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong published in the 1960s.

“It’s an Asian tradition,” he told the RBK daily. “Countries with authoritarian regimes always try to publish their leader’s most sparkling expressions even if those expressions are not that sparkling.”

The pro-Putin group that published the book has in the past been awarded generous grants by the Kremlin. The tome should hit Russian bookstores in January priced at 800 rubles ($11.12).

Network said on Monday it had given 1,000 limited edition copies to the Kremlin, which in turn had handed them out as presents to officials and politicians.

RBK cited named officials as saying they had received the present and had been told by a top Putin aide that it should sit on their desks. The tome would help them understand the decisions underpinning Russia’s domestic and foreign policy, the aide was quoted as saying.

Putin’s personal rating remains above 80 percent, despite a serious economic crisis thanks, say independent pollsters, to his decision to annex Crimea and launch air strikes in Syria.

With state media devoting saturation coverage to the 63-year-old leader, he is rarely off the screen.

Aides say Putin, whose third term as president lasts until 2018, takes a dim view of the idea of a Soviet-style cult of personality around him even though his likeness is used to sell everything from fridge magnets to mobile phone covers.

Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, distanced the Kremlin from the new book. He said he had not seen it and that it was unlikely to have been a centralized Kremlin initiative but might have been prepared by another part of Putin’s executive office.