Chatter: Hosni Mubarak, dead or alive?




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Need to know:
"How many times have we heard this?"

That was the pertinent question put to GlobalPost by one Cairo cafe-goer last night, as rumors of Hosni Mubarak's death began to swell in Egypt and beyond.

It started with a report that the former president had "clinically died" following a series of strokes; cue denials, conflicting accounts, much Twitter speculation, and some hurried consultation on what "clinically dead" actually meant.

Dead or alive, clinically or otherwise, Mubarak remains in a military hospital in Cairo, where crowds mounted a vigil throughout the night. The latest reports have him unconscious and on life support.

The Egyptians that GlobalPost spoke to ranged from indifferent to skeptical about their deposed and convicted ex-ruler's health. While we wait to hear what's really going on, we'll be taking some salutary lessons from all the other people who died – and then didn't.

Want to know:
Wikileaks' Julian Assange faces arrest after spending the night at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in a bid to seek asylum, British police have confirmed. The internet vigilante and government botherer breached the terms of his bail by not returning to his fixed address by 10pm and could therefore be taken into custody.

It was a calculated risk for Australian national Assange, who's hoping his Ecuadorian sleepover will become something more permanent. He has formally requested political refuge in Ecuador, less than a week after Britain's Supreme Court refused to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes.

"Julian is a political prisoner, a journalist, a publisher of the truth about corruption, war crimes, kidnapping, blackmail and manipulation," opines his mother, Christine. "Of course he would seek asylum."

Ecuador says it is studying the request.

Dull but important:
The head of the United Nations observer mission to Syria says that his team were repeatedly the targets of violence.

According to diplomats who attended yesterday's closed-door Security Council briefing, Major General Robert Mood said the 300 unarmed monitors under his command were directly fired upon. At least nine of their vehicles were struck or damaged in the week before Mood suspended the mission last weekend.

The mission's 90-day mandate officially expires today. The Security Council has not yet said whether it will be extended. 

Russia continues to mount the most vocal opposition to any armed intervention. As western governments try to persuade Moscow to change its stance, here's why, in Russia, even the Kremlin's critics agree with its resistance to military action.

Just because:
Last month, Myanmar soldiers entered a village in war-torn Kachin State and found a 48-year-old grandmother taking shelter in a church. What followed, according to rights group Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT), was three days of beatings, stabbings and gang rape.

Rape and sexual abuse among Myanmar's ethnic women is nothing new. But now that Myanmar has emerged from decades of isolation and chosen to enter the international community, the alleged crimes stand to undermine the country's progress.

A recent KWAT report found 43 cases of sexual violence and rape by the Myanmar army in Kachin State since a ceasefire broke down in June 2011. GlobalPost asks whether, in a new Myanmar, these alleged abuses will be stopped.

Strange but true:
Hustler of the day award goes to the anonymous octopus that hitched a ride on a dolphin – by attaching itself to the mammal's, ahem, special parts.

The incident was witnessed – and photographed – by dolphin watchers off the Greek island of Kalamos. They suggest the dolphin may have initially attacked the octopus, prompting it to adopt its unorthodox defense.

Whatever works for you, little cephalopod, whatever works for you.