Chatter: Russia slams Viktor Bout sentence



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Need to know:
Russia has slammed a US court's decision to sentence Viktor Bout, dubbed the "merchant of death," to 25 years in jail for agreeing to sell weapons for use in attacks on Americans.

Bout was handed the sentence in New York last night, five months after he was convicted of attempting to sell arms to Colombian rebels who planned to target Americans. 

The Russian Foreign Ministry has described the sentence as "absolutely inadmissible," accusing US authorities of "kidnapping" Bout. Moscow says it will do everything in its power to get him back to his own country.

Want to know:
The president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, is dead following a heart attack, according to reports.

The government has yet to make a formal announcement, saying only that Mutharika was hospitalized yesterday. Sources told Western media, however, that the president was dead on arrival.

Mutharika will be remembered for taking Malawi, once praised for its democracy, back toward the authoritarianism it successfully threw off. Overwhelmingly popular in the first years of his leadership, he'd later overseen a crackdown on civil society activists and diplomatic rows with Malawi's donors that cost the country valuable foreign aid. Who will replace him remains to be seen. 

Dull but important:
Rebels is northern Mali have declared their own separate republic in the north of the country.

Tuareg rebels today asserted the independence of a region they call Azawad, which includes the key towns of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu. After capturing large sections of the territory over the past two weeks, the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) yesterday announced a ceasefire in preparation for the founding of an independent homeland.

"We have ended a very important fight, that of liberation," an MNLA spokesman told the media. "Now the biggest task commences."

Just because:
The US Coast Guard has sunk a Japanese "ghost ship" set adrift by the 2011 tsunami.

The Ryou-Un Maru was first spotted two weeks ago off the coast of Canadian British Columbia, where it had drifted without crew or power. Unlit and carrying more than 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel, it was feared to be a hazard to other vessels.

A Canadian fishing boat claimed salvage rights but was unable to tow the ship to port. She was sunk this morning in the Gulf of Alaska, by a hail of US cannon fire.

Strange but true:
It's Good Friday quiz time: who'll be celebrating Easter this weekend?

a) Cubans;
b) Hyenas;
c) Candy-colored chicks;
d) An obsessive German pensioner;
e) The children of Old Colorado City.

Answer: everyone except e), because their parents are way pumped and don't know how to run an egg hunt. To a) to d), we say: have some fine holy fun!

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