Chatter: What if the Syrian crisis goes chemical?




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Need to know:
It's hard to imagine how the crisis in Syria could get worse. But one former regime insider can help you picture it.

Nawaf Fares, who was Syria's ambassador to Iraq until he defected last week, has warned that President Bashar al-Assad is not afraid to use chemical weapons if he feels "cornered by the people."

It's speculation, of course, but particularly alarming speculation given that Syria has one of the largest stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons in the Middle East – and that its forces have reportedly begun moving that stockpile out of storage. Indeed, some claim the regime had already used pesticide chemicals against unruly civilians as far back as September 2011.

Meanwhile, the army and its opponents continue to kill each other the old-fashioned way: with guns. Fighting continues in Damascus for a third straight day; shooting is reported in the center of the capital, while tanks and helicopters have been seen in the suburbs.

Want to know:
The rogue Afghan soldier who shot dead five unarmed French troops in January has been sentenced to death.

A military court yesterday ordered that Abdul Sabor be hanged, according to the Afghan defense ministry.

Five French soldiers were killed and 15 others wounded when Sabor opened fire on them as they jogged on their military base in eastern Kapisa province. Their deaths prompted France's announcement, days later, that it would pull its combat forces out of Afghanistan early. 

Sabor has the right to appeal his sentence.

Dull but important:
North Korea has named a new vice marshal of its army, one day after the previous military chief was abruptly relieved of his duties.

The new guy, Hyon Yong Chol, has not been given Ri Yong Ho's former post as head of North Korea's million-man army – but the timing of his promotion has been taken as a strong indication that he soon will be.

The move is the biggest public power shift yet since the death of Kim Jong Il, and is apparently aimed at tightening Kim Jong Un's grip on the military.

Just because:
From the Rio Grande to Patagonia, climate change has begun to grip Latin America.

Some of the damage, such as melting glaciers and rising sea levels, can already be seen – but scientists warn there's worse to come. The toll could be devastating for countries struggling to lift their populations out of poverty.

In a new series, GlobalPost reports from the frontlines of global warming. From vanishing glaciers in the Andes to crumbling coastlines in El Salvador, drought on Mexico's farms to thirst in Peru's cities, nowhere in the region is immune to climate pains.

Strange but true:
Hear ye, hipsters: skinny jeans are bad for you.

And this time it's not just us and your grandma saying it. We're backed up by doctors – admittedly ones that work for an incontinence-pad maker – who say that tight-fitting pants can lead to twisted testicles, bladder weakness and low sperm count for men, and yeast infections for women.

True, fashion has never been about comfort, so few who live by the trend will take the incontinence bunch's advice. But we think they could also do with some health warnings about the allergens contained in second-hand plaid shirts and the rash-causing properties of ironic mustaches.