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Chatter: What we're hearing

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Need to know: EU leaders have chosen the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman van Rompuy, to be the first permanent European Council President. Van Rompuy, 62, had crucial French and German support. He has a reputation as a coalition builder, having taken charge of the linguistically divided Belgian government and steered it out of a crisis.

Want to know: Four years after cartoons of the prophet Muhammad set off violent protests across the Muslim world, Islamic nations are mounting a campaign for an international treaty to protect religious symbols and beliefs from mockery — essentially a ban on blasphemy that would put them on a collision course with free speech laws in the West.

Dull but important: Who fears a free Mikhail Khodorkovsky? How Russia’s richest oligarch become the last best hope of its human rights campaigners.

Just because: Police have arrested a suspected Camorra hitman caught on camera as he shot a man dead outside a bar in central Naples in May. Images of the killing caused shock because they showed bystanders at the murder scene appearing largely unfazed.

Wacky: Franklin Chang Diaz has great aspirations for his rocket: a mail-carrier for outer space, a garbage truck for orbital debris and, the ultimate goal, a shuttle to Mars.

 

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