Chatter: The day the Games began




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Need to know:
Seven years of preparations. More than $14 billion. Over 200,000 staff. A lot of grumbling. And after all that, the day has finally come: the 2012 London Olympics officially begin today.

Things might not have gone entirely to plan, but fingers crossed, tonight's opening ceremony will go off without a hitch.

And anyone who thinks otherwise can jolly well keep their negative nancying to themselves – that means you, Mitt "Winter Games '02" Romney, who swiftly managed to make himself London's least welcome guest with some ill-judged reflections on the city's organizational skills. Cue a swift retort from Prime Minister David Cameron about the relative difficulty of hosting the Olympics in one of the world's biggest capitals versus "the middle of nowhere." Zing!

Find all of GlobalPost's Olympic coverage here. We'll be watching, reporting, analyzing, and, you betcha, cheering.

Want to know:
The Syrian air force has reportedly turned its helicopter gunships on rebel-controlled areas of Aleppo, as state media warns that "the mother of all battles" is set to begin in Syria's second city.

The US has voiced concern that the regime is preparing to unleash a massacre in Aleppo. The UN human rights chief, meanwhile, says both sides in the conflict are putting civilians at grave risk. 

As the war talk escalates and accusations fly, GlobalPost commentator Tom Fenton argues it's time the Western media asked more questions about the Syrian narrative it's writing – and whether the crisis in its reports is quite the same as the one that's happening.

Dull but important:
The world has until today to agree on a draft of a new global arms treaty

Negotiators have spent 30 days at United Nations headquarters in New York discussing ways to control the international arms trade. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon says "very limited progress" has been made. He urged delegates to bridge their differences, for the sake of "all the innocent civilians who have fallen victim to armed conflict and violence."

Advocates say standardized import and export controls are urgently needed to cut off the flow of weapons to dangerous war criminals, terrorists, and human rights abusers.

Just because:
China has promised that the wife of one of its fallen political stars will receive a fair hearing when she is tried for homicide.


The trial of Gu Kailai, who is married to former Communist Party high-up Bo Xilai, will be "landmark," state media assures. Gu was officially accused yesterday of poisoning a British businessman, Neil Heywood, who is thought to have known too much about alleged illicit financial dealings. Despite her notoriety and the high political stakes, today's editorials say Gu will be judged according to law and law alone, as proof that the Chinese legal system is credible. 

Her husband's fate, meanwhile, remains uncertain. His political career is over, but what charges, if any, will he face? One thing seems clear: if he is prosecuted, Chinese authorities probably won't want to do it quite so publiclyas they have with his wife.

Strange but true:
We knew it! Scientists confirm: pop music these days is too loud and all sounds the same.

Researchers in Spain fed the hit parade from 1955 to 2010 in to their data-crunching machines. An algorithmic analysis of audio and lyrical content revealed "a progressive homogenization of the musical discourse" – i.e., the variety of chords, melodies and types of sound has become smaller and smaller over the past 50 years. And what's more, all that blanditude is produced to be intrinsically louder than anything Buddy Holly or Otis Redding ever made.

If it's true that we get the pop music we deserve, all we can say is: sorry, world. We'll try to do better. Starting by turning the volume way down on Justin Bieber's "greatest" "hits."