- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 16, 2003

RUSSIA
Badgered by Putin, premier quits smoking
MOSCOW Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov has kicked his smoking habit after taking a subtle hint from his health-conscious boss, President Vladimir Putin, his spokeswoman was quoted as saying Friday.
Mr. Putin, whose mastery of judo and downhill skiing are frequently featured on television, has sent the country on a health kick, demanding that flabby Russians start exercising to improve their health in a hard-drinking, chain-smoking nation.
Itar-Tass news agency said Mr. Kasyanov was pushed to quit when Mr. Putin handed him a pair of skis as a birthday gift with the loaded remark that the prime minister "liked to improve his health."
Spokeswoman Tatyana Razbash told the news agency a bout with the flu and the Orthodox Lenten fast had also inspired Mr. Kasyanov to kick the habit.

GERMANY
Film fuels nostalgia for former East
BERLIN The runaway success of the new film "Good Bye, Lenin," a comedy about life in former East Germany, has sparked demand for products from the communist times, a company said last week.
OssiVersand.de, which offers food products from the former east via the Internet, said that its sales for the first two months of the year had doubled over those of 2002.
"Ostalgie is booming," said Gerhard Franz, head of the company based in the northern state of Saxony-Anhalt, using a pun on the German words for "east" and "nostalgia."

VATICAN CITY
Hand stolen from statue of St. Peter's near tomb
VATICAN CITY A hand clutching the symbolic keys to heaven was cut from a 13th-century marble statue of St. Peter, which stands at the entrance to the grottoes under St. Peter's Basilica, where the saint was buried.
Officials said Thursday the hand vanished a few days ago. They said they first suspected vandals but now believe the hand was stolen. Italian and Vatican police were investigating.
The statue is believed to have been sculpted by Arnolfo di Cambio, who also did the bronze statue of St. Peter upstairs in the basilica in the Vatican.
Tourists can take a tour of the grottoes, which include an ancient necropolis. Pope Paul VI, whose papacy was from 1963 to 1978, declared that bones of an elderly man found at the site were those of St. Peter, the first pope.

NORWAY
Tanker's officer jailed over hit-and-sail-away
BERGEN The Philippine officer of a Norwegian tanker that sailed on after colliding with a French trawler off the coast of Brittany last year, killing four fisherman, was sentenced Thursday to five years in prison.
Prosecutors had demanded a four-year sentence for Ronnie Zape, the 39-year-old duty officer of the Bow Eagle, but the court added an extra year when it found him guilty of failing to assist people in danger.

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