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Chatter: Russia jails the Kremlin's enemy number 1

Russia opposition activist Alexei Navalny gets five years for charges many believe are made up, Panama calls in the UN to inspect North Korea's suspect ship, Nelson Mandela is 95, and we sympathize with big-nosed creatures everywhere.
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Graphic. (Antler Agency/GlobalPost)
           

                      

   

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NEED TO KNOW

A day in the life of Alexei Navalny. Russia's most popular opposition figure and the man many expected (hoped?) would challenge Vladimir Putin for the presidency in 2018 has been jailed for five years. A court today convicted Alexei Navalny of stealing thousands of dollars of timber from a state-run firm — though why a blogger who decried government corruption would turn to embezzling trees, no one has yet explained.

The sentence will potentially keep him behind bars through the presidential election, while the conviction alone is enough to bar him from public office. Need we add that most observers suspect a political motive?

The Panama gang. United Nations inspectors will soon be going loco down in, er, Panama City as they arrive to inspect the North Korean ship aboard which Cuba has admitted hiding what looks very much like an illegal weapons cache.

As Pyongyang demands the crew and their cargo be released forthwith, Panama has called in the UN Security Council to take charge of what could be a violation of international law. The experts might want to don some protective headgear: we hear that the weapons, buried under sacks of sugar, are now surrounded by a swarm of bees. No word yet on whether they're working for Kim Jong Un.

WANT TO KNOW

Happy birthday, Mr. Mandela. The world's favorite elder statesman just got a little more elderly: Nelson Mandela turned 95 today, still in the hospital where he has spent the past five and a half weeks.

The South African government says the former president is "steadily improving" as he's treated for persistent respiratory problems. "There was a time that we were all extremely anxious and worried, and we were prepared for the worst," his daughter Zindzi told interviewers. "But he continues to amaze us every day."

Beware Greeks bearing lay-offs. Athens is on lock-down today as Greece's government prepares to welcome German Finance Minister Wolfgang "Austerity Please" Schaeuble, just a day after passing reforms that will see thousands of Greek workers lose their jobs

The public-sector reform bill is expected to lay off more than 4,000 state employees this year, and place a further 25,000 in a dreaded "mobility pool" that most see as the waiting room for redundancy. Greeks were, no surprise, unhappy about it anyway; today's visit by the German minister, who's seen as one of the main cheerleaders of the austerity measures Greece's international creditors have demanded from it, is bound to raise their hackles even higher.

If you want to know a man, walk a mile — or 2,000 — in his shoes. When Pope Francis visits Rio de Janeiro this month to celebrate Catholicism's World Youth Day, among the millions of believers will be one man who's walked an epic 1,850 miles to see the pontiff. Fabio Mateus has quit his job and spent four months trekking across Brazil in an precedented pilgrimage that he's due to complete today. (Seems a bit much, when he could have just joined Twitter.)

GlobalPost meets the man who'd walk 2,000 miles just to be that man who sees the pope.  

STRANGE BUT TRUE

Even dinosaurs get bullied. Pity the poor nasutoceratops, the newly discovered ancient species named for its unusually large nose.

The meanies at the University of Utah, over which the nasutoceratops would once have trampled, say that fossils indicate the dinosaur was the black sheep of its family: unlike the rest of its triceratops relatives, its nose protruded like a big beak and its horns were much bigger, too. It's been compared to a very large and scary cow. Oh, stop.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/chatter/chatter-russia-jails-the-kremlins-enemy-number-1