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The Russian prime minister's well-photographed birthday gift of a baby tiger is only one of many unusual photo opportunities for the press.
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By Names & Faces
Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tough-Guy Putin Earns His Stripes

All right, people. You like over-the-top personalities, right? We don't need to ask about baby animals.

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Then today's your lucky day, because Names & Faces gives you both. In what may be his best photo op yet, rugged Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin shows off his new pet: a 2-month-old tiger.

Putin won't say who gave him the female Siberian cub, right off the endangered-species list, as a gift for his 56th birthday, but yesterday he stroked her lovingly on Russian state TV. The PM says he will find a zoo or wildlife preserve where the tiger can live when she's bigger, but for now she sleeps in a wicker basket at his house. In case you were wondering, he thinks he'll name her Mashenka or Milashka.

The tiger photos are the latest reminder that our own leaders may have trouble catching up to Putin in the tough-guy department. First, there were those fierce-looking shirtless hunting and fishing photos, taken last year when Putin was still Russia's president. The Russian press has also shown Putin at the wheel of a massive racing truck and tracking a tiger through the Siberian forest.

And -- if we needed more proof that this man is part Richard Branson, part Bond villain and 100 percent Chuck Norris-- Putin released an instructional video Tuesday called "Let's Learn Judo With Vladimir Putin" -- in which, as one might expect, the black-belted Russian wears a uniform embroidered with his name while throwing an opponent to the mat.

Janet Jackson Resumes Tour

Janet Jackson, who postponed several recent concerts while recovering from an undisclosed illness, plans to resume her Rock Witchu tour this weekend.

Jackson's promoter, Live Nation, told "Access Hollywood" that the singer has been under a doctor's care for the past week, recuperating from an ailment that was never specified. But "she is excited about getting back on the road again," Live Nation said in a statement. Her first concert back is scheduled to be today in Uncasville, Conn.

After kicking off her tour Sept. 10, the 42-year-old Jackson was hospitalized Sept. 29 in Montreal and postponed shows there and in Greensboro, N.C., Boston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale. Doctors later advised her to rest, causing more postponements.

End Quote

"I sit there and I'll look back and I'm like: I'm a smart person. What the hell was I thinking?" -- Britney Spears, 26, in a teaser for an upcoming MTV documentary about her recent tough times. The 90-minute film, tentatively titled "For the Record," airs Nov. 30, two days before the release of her new album, "Circus."

-- Marissa Newhall, from staff, wire and Web reports

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