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This Belgian politician is accused of conspiring to overthrow Congo's government

He's got a winning smile, but the Democratic Republic of Congo isn't laughing.

Belgian member of parliament Laurent Louis, pictured above, was accused of conspiring to overthrow the Congolese government on Friday in an alleged plot that included the assassination of Congo's president, Joseph Kabila.

The bizarre story centers on a Belgian doctor named Jean-Pierre Kanku Mukendi and an ex-cop named Isidore Madimba Mongombe who were arrested last month before confessing to the plot. Mukendi and Mongombe claim Louis was also involved in the conspiracy, which included "small quantity of weapons" and the goal of assassinating Kabila. Reuters has the details:

"(Mukendi) admitted that this plan to attack the city of Kinshasa and physically eliminate the head of state was adopted at a large meeting presided by himself on January 20 in Kinshasa," he said.

Muyej claimed Mukendi had, while living in Belgium, founded a group called "Mouvement Debout Congolais", or the Arise Congolese Movement, with the assistance of a member of Belgium's Chamber of Representatives.

"With the help of the Belgian member of parliament Laurent Louis, he increased his meetings with Congolese compatriots ... in the aim of preparing and finalizing their project to overthrow (Congo's) institutions," he said.

Louis admitted to Reuters that he opposed Congo's ruling party, but denied any role in attempting to overthrow the government. "I am opposed to violence ... What's more, these meetings were totally public. There weren't any secret meetings to plot this or that," he said.

So at this point, it's Louis's word against the Congolese government's. Details about this toothy-grinned Belgian are slim. According to Congolese reports from the last year (translated through Google Translate), Laurent has consistently opposed Kabila's leadership. In the biography on his website, he says he was born in 1980 and learned "respect of certain values such as hard work, respect and justice." The only mention of Congo is in a section about his fondest memory: Meeting Étienne Tshisekedi, a longtime Congolese opposition leader and former prime minister of the country (formerly called Zaire). Time to hire a lawyer?

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If you're not getting a call from the pope, you're nobody

Either Pope Francis is an old man with nothing better to do than sit around his palace calling old friends, or he has crafted a clever-as-a-fox public relations campaign -- or he's just an extremely nice person. The newly installed and famously down-to-earth pontiff recently called the newspaper kiosk that supplied his paper in Buenos Aires to cancel his subscription. The result is heartwarming:

Around 1:30 p.m. local time on March 18, Daniel Del Regno, the kiosk owner's son, answered the phone and heard a voice say, "Hi Daniel, it's Cardinal Jorge."

He thought that maybe a friend who knew that the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires bought the newspaper from them every day was pulling a prank on him.

"Seriously, it's Jorge Bergoglio, I'm calling you from Rome," the Pope insisted.

"I was in shock, I broke down in tears and didn't know what to say," Del Regno told the Argentinean daily La Nacion. "He thanked me for delivering the paper all this time and sent best wishes to my family."

Del Regno shared that when Cardinal Bergoglio left for Rome for the conclave, he asked him if he thought he would be elected Pope. 

"He answered me, ‘That is too hot to touch. See you in 20 days, keep delivering the paper.' And the rest is, well, history," he said.

"I told him to take care and that I would miss him," Del Regno continued. "I asked him if there would ever be the chance to see him here again. He said that for the time being that would be very difficult, but that he would always be with us."

Hours after his election, Francis placed another call, this time to Italian journalist Stefania Falasca. This time, it was just to chat:

"The phone rang.... My son picked it up and it was the pope," Stefania Falasca, a former editor for a Catholic monthly, told Italian media.

"At home we just called him 'father', we never called him 'eminence'. I didn't know what to say. I asked him 'Father, what am I meant to call you? Holy Father?'" she said.

"He laughed and he told me 'The first phone call I wanted to make was to say hello to you, Gianni and the kids,'" she said.

Incredulity seems to be the universal reaction to getting a call from God's representative on earth. When Francis tried to place a call to a Jesuit colleague and informed the receptionist who was calling, the receptionist shot back, "Oh yes? And I'm Napoleon." All this -- he's also called his dentist to cancel his appointments -- makes us wonder: If you haven't gotten a call from Francis, does that mean you're a nobody?

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