Best and Worst of 2009: Scandals

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With President Vladimir Putin planning to revamp the floundering Russian fleet, the pressure was on for the 150-m nuclear submarine to shine in August naval exercises. Two explosions later, the pride of the flotilla was powerless on the bottom, while the Russian spin machine was in overdrive-declining initial offers for help that came too late to save the 118 men on board.

Alberto Fujimori stood up to drug dealers, terrorists and an uncooperative senate for almost a decade. So he had to break a few rules-what are civil liberties, after all, to a so-called "democratic dictator"? The Peruvian people finally objected, however, to blatant, unapologetic corruption. Fujimori now cowers in Japan, ousted after video footage surfaced showing his spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos bribing a congressman.

Au revoir, filet mignon; bye-bye headcheese. The bovine affliction known as "mad cow disease" has spread to the Continent, and consumers, frustrated with the E.U.'s slow response, are avoiding beef like, um, the plague. Thus far, 81 people in Britain and three in France have died from Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease brought on by consuming contaminated beef.

Shinichi Fujimura had a reputation for discovering significant historical ruins. Revered for his talent, he was said to have "the fingers of God." Turns out he also had a "spade of deception." An undercover TV crew revealed that the archaeologist-cum-scam-artist was burying prehistoric stoneware at ruins in Hokkaido and Miyagi prefecture only to unearth them later.

We thought the whole point of milk was that you put up with the mucus-causing beverage because it was good for you. Then Snow Brand, Japan's largest dairy company, accidentally infested its skim milk products with bacteria, causing nearly 15,000 serious tummy aches in Japan this past June. Plant workers-moles from the soy industry?-were in the act as well, routinely printing false production dates to palm off excess inventory.

Malawi's President Bakili Muluzi sacked his 33-member cabinet after they spent $250 million on Mercedes Benz cars-money Britain claims it donated in aid. Three of the former ministers are being investigated for a $25 million fraud-guess the aid money wasn't enough to get customized rims.

Hong Kong has long been touted as a knock-off center. It was the perfect market, then, for a ragtag group of freelance Russian musicians posing as the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra who booked themselves into the Hong Kong Cultural Center for a series of concerts in August. Thousands of music lovers paid $30 each to see the shows-only to learn that the real MPO had spent the summer on tour in Europe.

Alder Hay children's hospital in Liverpool was keeping secrets-and livers, kidneys and fetuses. It had been stock-piling organs from 800 dead children and storing 400 fetuses without parental consent. Perhaps overdue regulations for organ removal, storage and disposal are now called for.

Walkerton, Ontario, laid claim to the deadliest outbreak of E. coli contamination in North America, which left seven people dead and more than 2,000 ill. A combination of budget cuts, offloading of testing responsibilities and poor agricultural practices contributed to Walkerton becoming the dirty-water capital of the world.

Indonesian millionaire playboy Tommy Suharto-son of ousted President Suharto-now has a new role: fugitive. Still in hiding to evade an 18-month prison sentence after a conviction in a $11 million land scam, Tommy is the latest in a long line of fall guys for his disgraced father's regime.