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Ex-Putin aide found dead

Mikhail Lesin, a former aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin who helped found the English-language news service Russia Today, was found dead in an upscale Washington hotel room, Russian authorities said. The Russian embassy in Washington on Friday confirmed the death of Lesin, whose body was discovered on Thursday. Russia Today reported on its Web site that Lesin, 57, died of a heart attack. Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Sean Hickman said that officers were called to the Dupont Circle Hotel at about 11:30am on Thursday and found a dead man. Russian embassy spokesman Yury Melnik confirmed that the man was Lesin. Russia Today, commonly known as RT, credited Lesin with “inspiring the creation” of the agency.


Warden fired over jail party

The warden of the nation’s main prison has been fired and placed under investigation after inmates threw a noisy birthday bash for a jailed former anti-drug chief. State attorney Pablo Guzman on Thursday said that Colonel Johnny Rojas was dismissed and is suspected of granting another prisoner’s request to hold the party behind bars for the ex-drug czar, general Oscar Nina. Neighbors last month complained about loud music from the party, which reportedly included a show with singers in the main patio at Palmasola Prison. Minister of Government Carlos Romero said parties of a “recreational and cultural” nature are permitted at the prison, “but they don’t usually take place at 11 at night.”


Government cashes in SDRs

With its cash reserves in sharp decline, the government withdrew US$460 million from the IMF last month in its third such operation this year. The IMF Web site on Friday showed that the government exchanged part of its special drawing rights (SDR) — an international reserve asset created by the IMF — account at the fund for greenbacks. Some countries often buy SDRs to comply with their obligations at the IMF, and in other cases sell them for hard currency to raise their reserve level at home, the fund said. Venezuela depends almost exclusively on oil exports and has taken a big hit from a drop in crude prices, and hard currency reserves have fallen 25 percent over the past year to US$15.4 billion. Venezuela’s three SDR-selling transactions this year at the IMF have netted it more than US$2.3 billion. Until this year, Venezuela had not withdrawn assets from the IMF since 2006. The IMF does not have access to complete data on the Venezuelan economy since 2006, as Caracas rejects assessment visits by the IMF.


Missing tiger hunt ramps up

Authorities on Friday said they are intensifying efforts to trap a tiger that escaped from a restaurant zoo on the southern Pacific coast. Tracks from the tiger named “Ankor” were found about 10km from the private zoo he escaped from on Oct. 26 in the township of Coyuca de Benitez, west of the resort of Acapulco. Photographs of the dense vegetation suggested the tiger had chosen a pretty good area to hide out in, and authorities did not say how they planned to trap him. The owner of a ranch about 2km from the restaurant found five of his cows dead earlier this week, and the tiger is suspected in that case. Authorities also seized another tiger, a lion and a jaguar from the zoo, known as the “Mangrove Paradise,” and took them to a zoo park in the central state of Hidalgo for safekeeping.

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