Chatter: Ethiopia's Meles Zenawi dies abroad after illness




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Need to know:

Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister, has died abroad in hospital where he was being treated for an undisclosed illness, state TV said. Meles, who was 57, had not been seen in public for weeks. An EU spokesman said he died in Brussels.

Under Meles, Ethiopia became a key ally of the West in the Horn of Africa, and his death will be a blow to US foreign policy in the region.

The former rebel leader took power in 1991 after ousting dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who is also Ethiopia's foreign minister, will now act as head of government. 

Want to know:

From the Dept. of Close Calls, a rocket attack has damaged the aircraft of a top US general on a visit to Afghanistan.

The attack happened late Monday at the US air base in Bagram, north of Kabul. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the US joint chiefs of staff chairman, was not near the C-17 transport aircraft when the rockets hit, but two US ground crews were slightly injured.

Dempsey, who was in Afghanistan for talks on the growing number of insider attacks against NATO soldiers, left the country on another plane.

"We think it was a lucky shot," a NATO spokesman told Reuters.

Dull but important:

US President Barack Obama has warned Syria not to use or move chemical weapons, calling this a "red line" that could provoke US intervention in the Syrian crisis.

The CIA believes Syria has had a chemical weapons program for years, and already has a large stockpile including mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin.

President Obama told reporters at a White House briefing that the deployment or use of biological weapons would widen the conflict in the region, noting it would be of major concern to US allies including Israel.

Just because:

Ever dream of owning a palazzo in Venice? How about a seaside apartment in Lisbon? Well, Europe's bad news may be your good fortune.

European real estate markets have been on a roller-coaster ride during the global financial crisis. With home prices plummeting, opportunities abound for canny buyers, writes GlobalPost's Paul Ames.

Some cities, including London, remain ridiculously expensive. But property bargains are to be found in the dunes of the Baltic Sea coastline, in Italy at auctions of state-owned castles and historic fortresses, and (somewhat less romantically) in the city of Manchester.

Strange but true:

Yes, we know, being overweight is bad for your health. But the news has just gotten worse: researchers say that a bulging waistline may also be bad for your brain.

A study published in the journal Neurology tracked the health of 6,000 British people for more than a decade, and linked obesity to declining mental performance

It's not clear why this may be, but metabolic changes including high blood sugar and raised cholesterol could be involved.

So if you're feeling slow, that may be yet another reason to slim down.