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Chatter: Cuba's North Korean missile crisis

Cuba admits shipping weapons to North Korea in secret, a court in Bangladesh sentences a leading Islamist politician to death, Syria could be the new Rwanda, and Japan just can't shift its square watermelons.
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NEED TO KNOW

Comrades in arms. Cuba has admitted that yes, those were its weapons aboard a ship bound for North Korea, the United Nations' number-one place not to send arms. But guys, listen, it's all fine — because Cuba's missiles don't work.

The 240 tons of Soviet-made weapons are both "defensive" and "obsolete," according to Havana. They were being sent to North Korea — presumably a dab hand by now at armament DIY — to be restored to working order, Cuba's foreign ministry insists, adding that none of that changes its commitment to "peace, disarmament, [and] international law." It's all frightfully Cold War. And frightfully North Korea: as our rundown of other bungled black ops demonstrates, the world's most reclusive regime has trouble keeping a secret.

Death for Bangladeshi war criminal. A tribunal has ordered the execution of Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid, a prominent Islamist politician, for crimes that he's convicted of committing during Bangladesh's war of independence, 32 years ago. He's accused of leading a brutal militia that killed and tortured secessionists as they demanded autonomy from Pakistan.

His death sentence comes the same week that a fellow leader of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party, Ghulam Azam, was handed a 90-year prison term for his role in the conflict. Not surprisingly, the party doesn't appreciate its top brass being tried, jailed and even hanged on charges it maintains are politically motivated; more than 100 people have been killed in violent protests by its supporters since the war crimes tribunal began delivering its controversial verdicts. 

WANT TO KNOW

Syria is the new Rwanda. That's according to UN officials, who say that 5,000 people are dying each month that Syria's civil war drags on, and 6,000 fleeing every day — a refugee crisis the likes of which haven't been seen since the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The officials urged the UN Security Council to consider launching cross-border operations to deliver aid to the estimated four million Syrians in need of it, a measure opposed by both the Syrian and Russian governments. Two against four million. Do those figures add up?

A free lunch you don't want. At least 22 children have died after eating a dodgy dinner at their school in eastern India. Dozens of others who shared the tainted rice and lentils, all of them kids less than 12 years old, are still in hospital; some are critically ill.

The fateful meal was funded by the government, as part of its campaign to get impoverished children in school and fed. Commentators say the ambitious program — the biggest of its kind in the world — must be supervised more closely if it's to achieve, not undermine, its admirable aims. 

"Captain Coward" in the dock. Francesco Schettino, the Italian captain of the ill-fated Costa Concordia, goes on trial today. He's accused of causing the loss of the cruise ship, then abandoning the stricken vessel with crew and passengers still in danger.

Schettino is expected to plead not guilty — though, if it were up to public opinion, "the most hated man in Italy" would already be convicted. Eighteen months after the ship went down and 32 people drowned, a court will decide whether the whole thing was a tragic accident, or criminal incompetence. 

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Square peg in a round hole. Russians like their watermelons just as nature intended: round, juicy, and less than $700 a pop. So the latest in melon innovation, square watermelons — from, where else, Japan — hasn't gone down too well in Russian supermarkets.

The first straight-edged watermelons were grown by a Japanese farmer with a preference for neatness, who wanted to stop the unruly fruit rolling off his refrigerator shelves. Now, they've become a novelty that sells — or doesn't — for more than 300 times the price of their curvy cousins. And this, despite not even being edible: in order to be ready for export to Russia, the misshapen melons have to harvested before they're ripe. We'll stick to apples, thanks. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-cubas-north-korean-missile-crisis