Chatter: Syrian children 'used as human shields'




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Need to know:
The United Nations has accused Syrian troops of torturing and executing children as young as eight – and of using them as human shields during military raids.

In its annual report on children in armed conflict, the UN says the Syrian government – never before cited on the list of culprits – is now one of the world's worst offenders against children.

As GlobalPost has reported, rights groups estimate that hundreds of children have been tortured or killed during the 15-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

And the US warns that the regime's tactics are becoming "increasingly desperate." Whatever's more desperate than using children to protect tanks from gunfire is a bleak prospect.

Want to know:
Protesters are massing in Moscow today, in what they hope will be a major rally against the Russian government.

Organizers say thousands are expected to take to the streets of the capital to demand new elections and an end to Vladimir Putin's long, long reign. Not the organizers themselves, however: many of them had their homes raided by police yesterday and have been ordered to report to authorities this morning, forcing them to miss their own event.

Just last week Russia passed a bill to impose massive fines on protesters, to the dismay of human rights activists. It all looks a lot like a campaign of harassment against government opponents; Russian Twitter users have been comparing it to life under Stalin in the 1930s. 

Dull but important:
As the euro zone crisis lurches from bad to worse, Germany has seemed like an oasis of prosperity and stability.

Unemployment has actually dropped. Exports have boomed. Europe's powerhouse economy has seemed almost immune from the deep economic contractions and debt spirals many of its neighbors were succumbing to.

Almost. The latest economic news shows Germany may also be catching the euro zone virus. According to figures for April, both German exports and imports have fallen, as have industrial orders and auto production.

GlobalPost asks what it will mean for Europe if the continent's safe haven is no longer so safe.

Just because:
It's official: a dingo really did take the baby.

That's the conclusion come to by an inquest into the 1980 disappearance of nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain, the Australian girl who, her parents maintained, was stolen by wild dogs during a camping holiday near Ayers Rock. Authorities suspected foul play, however, and her mother Lindy was found guilty of her murder with husband Michael as an accessory.

Those convictions were quashed six years later, and the Chamberlains have been fighting to clear their names ever since. Now, 32 years after Azaria vanished, a coroner has ruled that dingoes were indeed responsible for her death. 

"The truth is out," said Michael Chamberlain. "Now, some healing and a chance to put our daughter's spirit to rest." 

Strange but true:
There's been a lot of talk recently about December 21, 2012. GlobalPost has weighed the facts and can confirm one thing for certain: this year, the world will either end or not end.

In between watching for unexplained lights in the sky and lead-lining our bunker, we're going to cram in as many stories as we can. Including: why Mexico and Guatemala are looking surprisingly perky for the epicenter of the apocalypse, tips on where to watch and what to listen to as the earth crumbles about your ears, and why Doomsday might not be such a bad thing after all.

Of course, all this will be a bit awkward come December 22. But if talking about how the world is going to end is going to end, we want to have our fun while we can.

In PoliticsConflict & JusticeConflictChatter.

Tagged: Syria.