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Convert a list with wrong encoding to utf8


Hello, i have tried the following to chnage encoding to utf8 because for some reason it has changed regarding list names

[python]
	#populate client listing into list
	names.append( name )
    ....
    ....
	names.append( '' )
	names.sort()

	for name in names:
		name = name.encode('latin1').decode('utf8')
[/python]

and the error that was presented was:

[output]
UnicodeEncodeError('latin-1', '???? ???????', 0, 4, 'ordinal not in range(256)')
[/output]

Why it cannot encode in latin nad decode in utf8 normally?
And since 'names' are being fetced from mysql database, which they were stored as utf8 strings WHY/HOW the 'names' enrolled in latin-1?