Chatter: Who is - and isn't - a 'Friend of Syria'?




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Need to know:
More than 100 countries meet today in Paris in a bid to form a united front on the crisis in Syria.

Russia and China won't be among them.

Both countries have shunned the so-called Friends of Syria alliance, where the agenda is set by Western and Arab allies who want President Bashar al-Assad to leave power. Beijing and Moscow baulk at what they claim would be interference with another nation's sovereignty, especially when talk turns to military intervention.

The absent Friends were in everyone's mind, nonetheless: addressing today's meeting, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton demanded that Russia and China "get off the sidelines" and agree to a UN Security Council resolution imposing sanctions on Syria's government.

One unexpected addition to the guest list, however, is Syrian Brigadier General Manaf Tlas: the senior officer and long-time ally (friend?) of Assad reportedly fled Syria last night, and is said to be on his way to France.

Want to know:
George Zimmerman's defense team is scrambling to raise the thousands of dollars they need to secure his release, after a judge yesterday set his bail at $1 million.

His family doesn't have "anywhere near" that sum, according to Zimmerman's lawyer. His legal fund contains $211,000 for his entire defense, and donations to it have been slowing, the attorney said.

The man who shot Trayvon Martin has been in jail since last month, when the same judge revoked his bail after prosecutors said that Zimmerman and his wife lied to the court about their finances. 

"By any definition, the defendant has flouted the system," Judge Kenneth Lester ruled. "But for the requirement that he be placed on electronic monitoring, the defendant and his wife would have fled the United States with at least $130,000 of other people's money."

Dull but important:
Libyans vote tomorrow
to elect a national assembly, their first free ballot in more than 40 years. 

The 200-member congress they elect will appoint an interim goverment and select a committee to write a constitution, which will then be submitted to voters in a referendum.

It's the first, crucial step toward political stability in Libya – political stability that will, in turn, bring back foreign investment to the country's most valuable natural resource, its oil. GlobalPost surveys the prospects for the oil industry in a new Libya.

Just because:
Two former Argentinian dictators have been sentenced to jail for stealing babies.

Jorge Rafael Videla and Reynaldo Bignone, who presided in turn over Argentina's 1976-1983 military dictatorship, were found guilty of overseeing the systematic theft of children born to political prisoners. At least 400 babies are thought to have been taken from their parents and adopted by members of the regime, in an attempt to stamp out the opposition movement.

Bignone and Videla were sentenced to 15 and 50 years, respectively. The sentence all but guarantees they will die in prison: the two men, both in their 80s, are already serving lengthy jail terms for other crimes committed under their rule.

Strange but true:
Did A Farewell to Arms leave you vaguely unsatisfied? Would you have prefered it if they'd all – spoiler alert – lived happily ever after in their Alpine cabin?

Well, it turns out Ernest Hemingway wasn't entirely sure about the ending either. So not-entirely-sure, in fact, that he wrote it 47 times. Those 47 "what ifs" will be included in a new edition of the novel, to be published next week.

From what we can tell, they're all pretty much variations on the "we're all going to die" theme. But fingers crossed, there might be at least one version in which we do so in a full-scale alien invasion.