Cuba reassures citizens reforms are necessary

HAVANA — Cuban authorities on Wednesday tried to reassure the public that a raft of economic reforms allowing for more private enterprise will not spell the end of the communist island's hallowed social protections.

The overhaul — which includes the slashing of half a million government jobs and the legalization of 178 private activities — is the biggest change to Cuba's economic system since the early 1990s.

Since the changes were announced this fall, President Raul Castro has taken pains to stress they're necessary to save Cuba's cash-strapped economic system — not meant to dismantle it.

Russian spy supports Putin, poses in Playboy

MOSCOW — Former spy Anna Chapman publicly reaffirmed her allegiance to Russia and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Wednesday by joining the youth wing of his United Russia party — as an issue of Playboy magazine with nude pictures of her hit the newsstands.

Chapman was exposed in the United States along with nine other so-called sleeper agents in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War and deported back to Russia this summer.

Rather than recede into anonymity like the other agents, she has reveled in the fame, appearing at the launch of a Russian spacecraft and stripping to her underwear for a men's magazine, among other things.

At Wednesday's meeting of the Young Guards, the red-haired 28-year-old Chapman was in beauty pageant mode, even mouthing the kind of banalities usually saved for such occasions.

"Let's dream about the boldest things," said Chapman, wearing a red dress and heavy makeup, her flaming hair carefully styled.