Chatter: When Annan met Assad




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Need to know:
Kofi Annan met Bashar al-Assad in Damascus today, a day after the special envoy admitted that his peace plan wasn't working.

Annan says he and the Syrian president have agreed on a new approach to end Syria's crisis. He didn't give details.

Assad said Annan's original deal was "a very good plan," but claimed it had been prevented from succeeding by other countries that give – he says – political, financial and military backing to "terrorists."

Could he possibly be referring to the US, whose secretary of state yesterday told Assad and his supporters that "the days are numbered"? 

And who are the armed rebels that the regime calls terrorists, and others the next leaders? GlobalPost hears about divisions in the opposition from revolutionaries concerned that their push for political change is being co-opted by religious and sectarian radicals.

Want to know:
Russia has declared a day of mourning for the scores of people killed in flash floods this weekend.

At least 171 bodies have found so far in the southern Krasnodar region. Torrential rains began pouring Friday night, dumping two months' worth of rainfall on the area in just a few hours. The waters flooded homes, cut off power and brought transport to a standstill.

Residents have questioned whether the rains alone could explain the scale and suddenness of the floods. Some speculate that a reservoir was opened in the mountains, allowing water to pour into the towns below. Officials deny the allegations; President Vladimir Putin has, however, ordered an inquiry into whether authorities gave people proper warning of the disaster.

Dull but important:
If you're reading this, give your computer a little pat on the hard drive: it means you're not one of the hundreds of thousands of people locked out of the Internets while the FBI shuts off servers used by cyber crooks.

It's all to do with an Estonian-engineered virus, which rerouted infectees' web searches through the criminals' own "rogue" servers and directed them to adverts. The FBI busted the gang in November 2011, but left the servers on in order to give affected netizens time to clean out their computers.

Today, the servers get shut down. And if you're one of the unlucky ones whose hard drive isn't back to full health, watching cat videos just got a hell of a lot harder.

Just because:
Farewell Ernest Borgnine, who has died aged 95.

The veteran actor passed away yesterday from kidney failure. He and his distinctive gap teeth will be remembered for roles in From Here to Eternity, The Dirty Dozen, The Wild Bunch and The Poseidon Adventure – not forgetting his Oscar-winning performance as the lovesick butcher of the title in Marty

He continued to work well into his ninth decade, receiving an Emmy nomination three years ago for his appearance in ER.

"I keep telling myself, 'Damn it, you gotta go to work,'" he told an interviewer in 2007. "But there aren’t many people who want to put Borgnine to work these days. They keep asking, 'Is he still alive?'"

Strange but true:
NASA has released a panorama of Mars, said to be the most detailed view of the Red Planet we've ever had.

The 360-degree scene was stitched together from 817 separate pictures taken over four months by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

The robot has been exploring Mars since 2004, but for the rest of us, NASA says, the panorama is "the next best thing to being there." Enjoy.