Chatter: Deadly bombings rock northern Syria




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Need to know:

Blasts targeting security buildings in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib have killed civilians and security personnel.

State TV said two suicide bombers killed eight people and wounded dozens more. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 20 people had died, many of them members of the security forces.

The bombings happened near the hotel where United Nations cease-fire observers are staying. 

The head of the UN observer mission to Syria, Major General Robert Mood, arrived in Damascus on Sunday. Mood warned that "even 1,000 unarmed observers cannot solve all the problems" unless all sides commit to peace. 

Want to know:

Bahraini opposition activist and hunger striker Abdulhaldi al-Khawaja, and 20 fellow activists, will have their cases retried, an appeals court has ruled.

Al-Khawaja, Bahrain's most prominent human rights activist, is one of more than a dozen men jailed on charges of leading an uprising against minority Sunni rule in the Gulf kingdom last year. It is not clear whether the men will be released during the retrials.

Al-Khawaja received a life sentence from a military court, and has refused food since Feb. 8. He was moved from prison to a military hospital for treatment three weeks ago.

Dull but important:

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, on a historic visit to Myanmar, called on President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to work together in pursuit of change in the southeast Asian nation.

In the first-ever address by a foreign dignitary to Myanmar's fledgling parliament, Ban called on both parties to "summon the political will to make lasting change," and rise above political differences to tackle the greater interests of the country's people.

Suu Kyi today said her party had yielded in a dispute over the legislative oath of office, and would end a boycott of parliament. 

Just because:

China is rounding up dissidents after the escape of blind lawyer and activist Chen Guangcheng, and ahead of a visit this week by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

There are reports that Chen, who last week fled house arrest in a village in Shandong province, is receiving protection from the US embassy in Beijing.

Since Chen's escape, several of his family members have been arrested, along with prominent critics of the Chinese government. Authorities detained Hu Jia, an activist who is close to Chen, along with He Peirong, who claimed she drove with Chen to Beijing.

Strange but true:

An Australian billionaire has unveiled ambitious plans to build a modern-day version of the Titanic, to be called - wait for it - the Titanic II.

The name doesn't exactly inspire confidence. After all, the original Titanic famously struck an iceberg and sank in 1912. 

But mining magnate Clive Palmer said the luxurious replica ship, to be built in China, will be designed with modern technology. The ship's maiden voyage from England to North America has been scheduled for late 2016.

“It is going to be designed so it won’t sink,” Palmer told reporters. Hmmm, where have we heard this before?