Chatter: Syria at boiling point




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Need to know:
How long can Syria remain at boiling point? Shelling is reported in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Idlib. Troops are also said to be marching on Aleppo, where rebels are digging in for a major battle.

GlobalPost reports from Syria's second city, where the crisis is enough to turn even middle-aged moms into activists.

And it's not just the city's residents who are fleeing. There's confirmation today that another two members of the regime have defected: the Syrian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and his wife, a diplomat in Cyprus.

Want to know:
Disturbing revelations continue to come from Aurora, Colorado: the suspected shooter, James Holmes, reportedly sent a university psychiatrist a notebook detailing plans for a massacre – and marked with his name and address.

The University of Colorado, where Holmes was previously a PhD candidate, remains tight-lipped; it confirms only that it received a "suspicious package" by mail, which it says it reported to police. 

It's one more in a line of questions about why the tragedy wasn't prevented. "A mentally unbalanced individual should not be able to get his hands on a gun so easily," President Barack Obama said last night, in his most direct comments on gun control yet since the shooting. Mitt Romney, though, advises changing "hearts," not laws. 

Meanwhile the first funeral has taken place for one of the shooting's 12 victims: Gordon Cowden, 51, who died taking his children to the movies.

Dull but important:
Thank you, America, for sending us Mitt Romney. No sooner had the Republicans' best hope for president landed in Britain than he was embroiled in accusations of racial insensitivity and undiplomatic meddling.

The controversy stemmed from a quote in a British newspaper, purportedly taken from an unnamed Romney adviser in Washington, to the effect that Barack Obama doesn't quite get the "Anglo-Saxon heritage" that the US and Britain nominally share. VP Joe Biden called the whole thing "disturbing"; Team Romney hastily denied making the clumsy comment and/or impugning the President's credentials.

Romney heads next for Israel and Poland, where opportunities for embarrassment will no doubt continue. By the by, where's Obama been while his rival "does" Europe? In Seattle – though unless you've got $5,000 to spare, you wouldn't know it.

Just because:
The United States is suffering its worst drought in 50 years. Yes, that's bad news for Americans. But what happens in the parched fields and prairies of the Midwest can affect people, prices and political stability worldwide.

In a new series, The Drylands, GlobalPost investigates what America's drought means for the rest of our hungry and increasingly worried planet. 

What's the impact on countries that buy American grain? What about those that have their own? How have are other producers dealing with drought? And should we just accept that extreme weather and food crises have become the new normal?

Strange but true:
You know you've messed up when you find yourself apologizing to North Korea.

The organizers of the London Olympics had to do just that, however, after mistakenly projecting the South Korean flag next to headshots of the North Korean women's soccer team. The North's players refused to take to the pitch in protest. Their match against Colombia was delayed by around 40 minutes while red-faced graphics editors scurried to correct the mistake. 

Pret-ty awkward. Though not as awkward as North Korea being drawn against South Korea in the first round of the men's table tennis. National rivals! Kill shots! Paddles! Now that is when the Games get real.